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Since the last shuttle retired in 2011, US astronauts have been paying to ride to space on Russian rockets. According to recent news: BBC 16 September 2014 the earliest US launch is late 2017.

Currently politics of these two nations are having some differences of opinion. If the US suddenly found it impossible/impractical to use Russian transport to get to the ISS, could a US based astronaut launch occur sooner? Alternately could a ride be arranged with another nation like China?

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Currently the US has a policy against participating with China in any space endeavors ("Due to U.S. obstruction, China now can only have limited international exchanges and cooperation on space technologies and activities." [1])

Elon Musk says that SpaceX could provide manned transport in 2016, a year early of NASA's plans. [2] This does leave 2015 as a gap year if things went south with Russia, but there are some launch vehicles (such as Ariane 5) that are technically capable of launching manned capsules if the situation became dire enough. Such a situation is improbable, however.

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    $\begingroup$ @geoffc In a pinch, the Orion most likely could fly next year: space.com/25086-nasa-orion-space-capsule-test-flight.html $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 17 '14 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ If you believe Orion could fly next year, i have a bridge in Brooklyn available cheap. :) $\endgroup$ – geoffc Sep 17 '14 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @geoffc I don't think I'm overestimating the Orion. I think you're underestimating what can be accomplished in dire enough straits. No, the Orion most likely won't be ready next year, but then again if we had a crisis things would change. Like I said in my answer, though, such a situation is improbable. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 17 '14 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @geoffc You would be surprised how much our current "Human Rating" standards are overlooked in a crisis. And I wouldn't take that bet, because I don't think a crisis is going to happen so I have no hopes for an early flight of Orion. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 17 '14 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 17 '14 at 15:17

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