NASA has purchased an additional Soyuz seat from Russian space agency, as a failsafe, to ensure it will have a ride to the ISS

NASA would compensate for bumping a Russian cosmonaut from the flight by flying their cargo to the ISS on a US-built spacecraft.


Editor's Note: The NASA-SpaceX joint human spaceflight was scheduled for liftoff on Thursday, 28 May, 2.00 am IST (Wednesday, 27 May at 4.32 pm EDT) from the Launch Complex 39A from the Kenndy Space Centre, Florida. However, due to bad weather conditions, they had to cancel the launch. It has now been re-scheduled for 31 May, 12.52 AM IST.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be shelling out more than $90 million to the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.

NASA spokesman Josh Finch told SpaceNews that NASA would compensate Roscosmos for bumping a Russian cosmonaut from the flight by flying a bit of their cargo to ISS on a US-built spacecraft.

The deal includes the seat on the Soyuz spacecraft and various training, pre-launch and post-landing services.

The negotiation has been done “to ensure the agency (NASA) keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous US presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available.”

 NASA has purchased an additional Soyuz seat from Russian space agency, as a failsafe, to ensure it will have a ride to the ISS

The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft is raised into vertical position after arriving at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan by train on May 26, 2013. The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft is raised into vertical position after arriving at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan by train on May 26, 2013. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Commercial crew program

US commercial crew providers will be available in 2020-2021 and the US space agency would no longer need to buy a Soyuz seat, reported Space.com quoting NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz.

SpaceX is going to launch two astronauts, Bob and Dough, on 28 May, 2.00 am IST on board the Falcon 9. The astronauts will be launched on the crew capsule - Demo-2 that has been designed by SpaceX as well.

This will be the first time, in 11 years that American astronauts will be launched from American ground after the Space Shuttle program was shut down. American astronauts were launched on the Russian Soyuz rocket wherein each seat would cost up to $86 million per seat, and around $55.4 million on average reported NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG).

According to OIG estimates, seats on SpaceX's Crew Dragon will cost the American space agency about $55 million per seat for the first six missions.

However, this is still a much better deal than paying almost $90 million to the Russians.

Why does NASA need to buy a seat in the Soyuz rocket?

The decision to buy a seat in the Soyuz rocket is an assurance that NASA will always have a few of its own astronauts on the ISS, so as to maintain its presence.

Currently, Chris Cassidy is the only NASA astronaut present on the station along with two Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. He flew to the ISS in April this year on the last available Soyuz seat and is expected to return later this year.

The Space Station can usually accommodate around six members at one time. Currently, there are only three members on board. In order to help the short-handed crew aboard the ISS, Behnken and Hurley will spend more than a month, instead of a week, like it was originally planned.

NASA was also forced to buy an additional seat due to a delay in the commercial crew program, by both Boeing and SpaceX. Both private aerospace companies had faced safety issues and technical challenges with their spacecrafts which left NASA astronauts stranded.

Also Read: What do we know SpaceX's astronaut suits and the vehicle they use to travel to the launchpad; launch on Sunday, 31 May, 12.52 am IST

 


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