5. SpaceX launch could be bad news for Russia
SpaceX's first attempt at launching astronauts from American soil, now set for Saturday after a weather delay, will stress the decades-long relationship between the U.S. and Russia in space, Axios' Alison Snyder and Miriam Kramer write.
Why it matters: As the U.S. regains the ability to launch people with its own rockets, the future of Russia's already struggling civil space program — and how the U.S. will collaborate with it — is unclear.
Where it stands: The U.S. and Russia are locked in a state of mutual dependence. NASA needs Russian rockets, and Russia's Roscosmos needs U.S. money.
- For nine years, Russian rockets have been the only ride to orbit for U.S. astronauts.
- A seat on the Soyuz rocket, which experts say hasn't evolved much since the 1960s, cost NASA $80 million on average in recent years.
What's happening: If SpaceX and Boeing can deliver astronauts to space, the U.S. plans to stop purchasing flights from Russia.
- "It is a nightmare scenario for the Russian space agency,” one industry expert tells Axios. "We’re building a replacement to every rocket and spacecraft they provide."
- Russia could turn to existing partners — the Europeans, Canadians and Japanese, for example — as customers. It could also turn to tourists and other governments looking to get into space (the UAE, for one). But those are small markets.
The big question: "Are we going to go back to the Great Powers having individual space programs and everyone picks teams, or is there still an opportunity for everyone to collaborate on one big program?" asks Brian Weeden of Secure World Foundation.