NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, have formally agreed to swap seats on four upcoming missions to the International Space Station. The first missions – with a Russian on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and an American on Soyuz vehicles – will fly in September.
“Flying Embedded Crews ensure there are properly trained crew members aboard the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks,” NASA spokesman Josh Finch said. in a press release. “It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with a crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency on board the station that requires a crew and their assigned vehicle. return to Earth sooner than expected.”
As planned, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will fly alongside cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin on the Soyuz MS-22 mission, scheduled to launch September 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Additionally, NASA’s Loral O’Hara will fly with cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub on the Soyuz MS-23 mission next spring.
Meanwhile, cosmonaut Anna Kikina will fly with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata on the Crew-5 mission in September. Cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev will join NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg on the Crew-6 mission next spring.
“The cashless arrangement includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and full mission support, including all training and preparation necessary for launch, flight operations, landing and services. crew rescue,” Finch said.
The announcement came Friday morning shortly after the Kremlin announced that Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin had been removed from his post. Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borissov will replace Rogozin. During his four-year tenure, Rogozin had an extremely difficult relationship with his Western counterparts and always seemed more interested in currying favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin than working to advance space station efforts. .
The timing of Friday’s announcement was coincidental, a source said. However, NASA will not mourn the loss of Rogozin, who has become increasingly belligerent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has made numerous threats regarding Russian participation in the station. NASA officials said they had good working relationships with other senior administrators inside Roscosmos, which helped them move the seat-swap deal forward despite the messy leadership of Rogozin.
Embedded crews have been the norm throughout the International Space Station program, and they are an important symbol of Russian-U.S. cooperation despite geopolitical tensions. A Russian cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev, was the first Russian to fly in an American space vehicle, aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle in 1994. A year later, NASA astronaut Norman Thagard flew to the Mir space station aboard a Soyuz vehicle.
After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA had to rely on Russia to transport the crew to the space station. Although Russia ultimately charged NASA around $90 million for a seat, the country held its end of the bargain by providing reliable transportation. NASA no longer needs Russia for this, however, with Crew Dragon coming online as an operational spacecraft. Kikina will become the first Russian to launch on an American vehicle other than the space shuttle.