NASA & Roscosmos sign long-sought agreement

25th July 2022
Kiera Sowery

NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos have signed a long-sought agreement to integrate flights to the International Space Station.

The agreement allows Russian cosmonauts to fly on US-made spacecraft in exchange for American astronauts able to ride on Russia’s Soyuz.

“The agreement is in the interests of Russia and the US and will promote the development of cooperation with the framework of the ISS programme,” Roscosmos said in a statement, adding it will facilitate the exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes.

NASA and Roscosmos, the International Space Station’s core partners, have sought for years to renew outline integrated crewed flights as part of the agencies’ long-standing civil alliance, now one of the last links of cooperation between the US and Russia as tensions heightened over the war in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hugely effected space partnerships, including OneWeb’s launch to add to its in-orbit constellation. It has led to a growing isolation of Russia’s space industry from its Western partners.

The first integrated flights under the new agreement will happen in Septembner, NASA said, with US astronaut Frank Rubio launching to the space station from the Moscow-based Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhastan alongside two cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin.

In exchange, cosmonaut Anna Kikina will join two US astronauts and a Japanese astronaut on a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the orbital laboratory, launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Previously, the two agencies have shared astronaut seats on the US shuttle and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

After the shuttle’s retirement in 2011, the US relied on Russia’s Soyuz for sending American astronauts to the space station until 2020, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight capability and began routine ISS flights from Florida.

The US Space Agency has announced the importance of having at least one Russian and one American aboard the ISS, stating it is crucial to keep the laboratory running.

“Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks,” said a NASA representative.

Shortly before the agreement was announced, President Vladimir Putin replaced the head of Roscosmos, Dmityry Rogozin, with Yuri Borisov, a former deputy prime minister and deputy defence minister.

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