NASA buys extra seat on Soyuz

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US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — NASA will pay more than $ 90 million for extra space on the Soyuz spacecraft, which will be launched at the International Space Station this fall, an insurance policy in case of any additional delays with missions for the crew.

On May 12, NASA announced the completion of negotiations with the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos to provide space for a flight on the Soyuz spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in mid-October.

This transaction, as stated in a brief statement by NASA, aims to “ensure that the Agency fulfills its obligations to ensure the safe operation of the ISS through the continued presence of the United States” on the ISS until commercial transport ships for the crew are introduced into the regular operation.

The statement did not disclose the value of the transaction, but NASA spokesman Josh Finch said the agreement was worth $ 90.25 million. It includes a place on the Soyuz spacecraft and various training, pre-launch and after-landing services. In addition, Finch said that NASA will reimburse Roscosmos this place by delivering an unspecified amount of Russian cargo to the station on a NASA cargo spacecraft.

The decision to purchase additional space was not a surprise. Last fall, NASA officials said they were considering acquiring at least one additional location to secure a US presence at the station after this fall. Chris Cassidy, NASA’s only astronaut currently stationed, arrived there in April at NASA’s last seat on Soyuz, which is part of a bilateral agreement announced by the agency in early 2019. The astronaut is due back this fall.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine recently announced that NASA is nearing an agreement with Roscosmos to provide additional space. “We are very close to completing this deal. I think that in a few days we will all sign,” he said during a briefing on May 1 about the upcoming test flight of the crew in the SpaceX Demo-2 mission.

Delays in the commercial crew program, both from Boeing and SpaceX, forced NASA to gain additional space in the Soyuz at generally rising prices. A November 2019 NASA Inspector General’s Office report found that since 2017, when NASA was planning to launch crew flights, the agency spent about $ 1 billion on 12 extra seats on Soyuz to ensure constant access to the station, while how vehicles of both companies faced development delays.

At a briefing, Breidenstein said the agency had not decided whether he would need another seat on Soyuz to launch in the spring of 2021. “We want to assess the risk level of our own program,” he said. Current plans require Demo-2 to spend up to four months at the station before returning. It will be followed by the first Crew Dragon mission, Crew-1, in which there will already be four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the Japanese space agency JAXA.

NASA has not announced who will fly to the station at Soyuz this October. One of the main candidates is Stephen Bowen, who trained as a backup astronaut for Cassidy.


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