October 15, 2016

"NASA is sure enough that Boeing and SpaceX can safely launch astronauts to the International Space Station by early 2019 to hold off paying Russia to keep flying U.S. crews to the research complex, and one official says a deadline to order parts for new Russian Soyuz crew capsules may have already passed."

Spaceflight Now: Boeing and SpaceX are working on new commercial capsules designed to transport at least four astronauts to and from the orbiting outpost, but their schedules appear to be slipping, this time due to technical woes, not the lack of funding that caused previous delays in the program. by Stephen Clark

'Until the U.S.-built spaceships are certified by NASA, all space station crews will launch and land aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

'NASA last year signed a $490 million agreement with the Russian government for six round-trip seats on Soyuz missions, with launches in 2018 and landings extending into early 2019. The space agency is sending nearly $82 million to Russia for each ticket. Even as the commercial crew schedules move later into 2018, NASA officials say they are not considering extending the contract with Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — for more launches in 2019. The last Soyuz launch seats reserved for U.S. astronauts are at the end of 2018.

'Starting in 2019, when residents fly to the space station on Boeing, SpaceX and Russian vehicles, NASA and Roscosmos have agreed to launch mixed crews, where a Russian cosmonaut will always be part of a four-person crew on a CST-100 or Crew Dragon, and a U.S. astronaut will be one of the three fliers on each Soyuz.

'The in-kind agreement does not involve any exchange of funds, but it ensures there will always be at least one U.S. astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut on the space station in case an illness necessitates the homecoming of part of the research lab’s crew in a Crew Dragon, CST-100 or Soyuz capsule.'

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