NASA will extend its contract for Soyuz flights through 2016: NASA JSC Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos – 4 Jan 2011 – JSC/SpaceRef
Wayne Hale notes that the Soyuz vehicles did not have to pass the NASA human rating requirements. Instead the agency relied primarily on the demonstrated reliability and safety of the Soyuz over many flights: Certifying Soyuz – Wayne Hale’s Blog.
> So as new human certification ratings are proposed, they rely heavily on new standards and specifications, requirements for analysis, engineering calculation, computer simulation, piece-part testing and just a little bit on flight demonstration. Of course, the Shuttle and the Soyuz don’t comply with those standards; they were built in different times with more primitive standards. But they demonstrate a level of reliability or safety that is apparently acceptable.
If someone were to build their own spacecraft and/or launch vehicle; fly it successfully many times, demonstrate its capabilities in actual flight; then I suspect the new human rating requirements would be tossed aside in favor of demonstrated actual flight performance.
And that is as it should be.
But we are a long way to space travel being at the maturity, economy, and routine of air travel.
All those FAA airworthiness requirements were paid for in blood. Don’t forget that.