NASA is considering buying two extra tickets from its Russian counterpart Roscosmos. These two seats should guarantee that NASA will continue to have access to the ISS in the second half of this year and into 2020. In the course of this year, SpaceX and Boeing should take over this role.
NASA reports that it is considering buying two Russian seats in the Soyuz rocket. With this, the space agency wants to ensure that at least two more astronauts can go to the International Space Station in the fall of this year and in the spring of 2020. It is not clear how much money these extra seats will cost, but previously a ticket cost 81 million dollars.
This move is related to uncertainty about the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner. Both companies are scheduled to be ready for the transport of astronauts to and from the ISS later this year, but it is by no means certain whether the current schedule will be met. An unmanned test flight with the Crew Dragon will be conducted on March 2 at the earliest, after which SpaceX should be ready for manned flights by July. Boeing will follow in April or May with the first unmanned test flight.
The last negotiated Soyuz flight that NASA has purchased will take place in July. NASA states that past experience shows that difficulties can arise during the test flights. This could eventually mean that there will be no more American astronauts on the ISS in the long run, and the organization wants to prevent that by securing extra seats now.