The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will pay 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 the station 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.”
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.
The decision to buy a seat is not surprising, as NASA last fall said they were considering purchasing at least one additional seat to ensure the US maintains its presence on the ISS.
Currently, Chris Cassidy is the only NASA astronaut present on the station. He reached there in April on the last Soyuz seat available to NASA. Cassidy is expected to return later this year.
The US space agency announced a two seat-deal on Soyuz last year with Roscosmos.
The requirement to buy an additional seat was necessitated due to a delay in the commercial crew program, by both Boeing and SpaceX.