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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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Between July 2011 (STS-135) and December 2018 (VSS Unity VP-03) there was no spaceflight from U.S. soil according to both the U.S. definition (50 mi altitude) and the FAI definition (62.14 mi altitude) of the space border. However there were two balloon flights into the upper stratosphere from where Felix Baumgartner in 2012 and Alan Eustace in 2014 jumped to fall to the Earth. These jumps were labeled 'space jumps' by some media. Baumgartner reached an altitude of 39 km / 24 mi and Eustace reached 41.4 km / 25.7 mi. Both guys went beyond the Armstrong limit (where your blood would start to boil due to too thin air) therefore they wore pressurized spacesuit-like suits, and both went beyond the Triple Point of Water where liquid water cannot exist outside either. The atmosphere-space border is fluid. Baumgartner and Eustace were in literal free fall (and thus weightless) very long due to the air up there being so thin that it's almost vacuum.

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  • $\begingroup$ "border is fluent"? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 28 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble With "fluent" I mean that you can't determine where exactly it is. It's rather up to you where you set it. You can set it at the upper border of the Ozone layer/beyond Triple Point of Water (from about 20 mi altitude) like some media might have done in these cases, or you can set it at the stratopause or at the mesopause (like the USA, uhoh and me) or at the nextmost double-0-value (100 km, like the FAI does). $\endgroup$ – user35272 Apr 29 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ @user30007 the word you're looking for is "fluid", not "fluent". $\endgroup$ – DylanSp May 1 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ @DylanSp I see, thank you! I've edited it. $\endgroup$ – user35272 May 1 at 4:19

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