Space

NASA looks for a seat on Soyuz mission to ISS

Summary

On 9th February, NASA said that it is seeking a seat on the Soyuz mission to the International Space Station. The agency said that it wants to get a seat to ensure the US is represented on the station in […]

On 9th February, NASA said that it is seeking a seat on the Soyuz mission to the International Space Station. The agency said that it wants to get a seat to ensure the US is represented on the station in case of any interruption due to commercial crew vehicles problems.

NASA noted that the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft that is currently in the ISS has no issue, and it is ready for the Crew-1 mission. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will launch its second uncrewed test on 25th March and then make a crewed test flight to the ISS by September. The agency noted that new launch capabilities could face difficulties or unanticipated delays maintaining early schedules from their experience.  NASA said that even if the US Crew Vehicles (USCV) experience no delays during the launch, the eventuality undock of the USCV can happen as a result of unanticipated occurrences.

NASA said that it aspires for mixed crews such that Russian cosmonauts jet on commercial crew spacecraft while the American astronaut jet using Soyuz vehicles. This will ensure that there is a Russian and an American on the station always if the commercial crew vehicles or Soyuz is grounded for a long time. There is a suggestion that the seats should be bartered instead of being bought.  The acting director for the ISS at NASA Headquarters, Robyn Gatens, said they are looking forward to NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission. They will ensure they will maximize the station use and minimize any risk.

Gatens noted that NASA does not intend to buy the Soyuz seat like it has done before; instead, it will offer in-kind services. However, the agency did not clarify what the in-kind services are. Soyuz MS-18 is planned to be launched on 10th April. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has allocated its three cosmonauts to the mission, including Sergei Korsakov, Pyotr Dubrov, and Oleg Novitsky. This is the first all-Russian Soyuz crew to happen in over 20 years.

But it is expected one of the cosmonauts would be replaced by a NASA astronaut known as Mark Vande Hei since he has been preparing for the mission. In October 2020, Vande Hei participated in launching the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft to the ISS, where he backed up Kate Rubins, the NASA astronaut. Also, in that mission, Dubrov and Novitsky were backup crew. On 10th February, Roscosmos said that it would formalize its relationship with other partners on the April flight though it never elaborated much.

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