Monday, February 09, 2015

NASA Will Buy More Soyuz Seats for US, Canadian, European & Japanese Astronauts

          By Brian Orlotti

The Soyuz spacecraft. Image c/o William Self/ The Plain Dealer.
NASA has issued a statement saying that it intends to purchase six seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry US, Canadian, European and Japanese astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth in 2018.

NASA said that the new Soyuz purchase is a contingency in the event that commercial space vehicles now in development are delayed.

As outlined in the February 6th, 2015 Space News article, "NASA Issues Sole Source Notice for Six Soyuz Seats," the announcement was received with mixed emotions.

Given the current maturity level of the commercial vehicles and the 3-year procurement lead time for Soyuz crew transportation services, NASA must contract for Soyuz now in order to assure uninterrupted access to ISS in CY 2018,” NASA said in its statement. 

Under the terms of its last contract with Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Soyuz seats cost approximately $76Mln USD ($94.77Mln CDN) each.

Boeing and SpaceX are currently developing spacecraft (Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon/Dragon V2) to carry astronauts to the ISS on a commercial basis. The first flights of these vehicles are scheduled for late 2017.

Boeing CST 100 and Space Dragon V2. Graphic c/o

Although space enthusiasts may be discouraged by this extended astronaut downtime, it is helpful to remember that similar lulls have occurred before. Canadian astronauts experienced an 8-year gap between Marc Garneau's 1984 mission and Roberta Bondar's 1992 flight. US astronauts had a 6-year gap between 1975's Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and 1981's first Space Shuttle flight.

Brian Orlotti.
And when astronauts do resume their travels, it will be aboard new ships built by new players in a new paradigm for the industry. 

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

  1. "US astronauts had a 6-year gap between 1975's Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and 1981's first Space Shuttle flight." That was because of cuts in NASA funding in 69-75. Hopefully with the CCP, access to LEO will be taken out of the fickle funding by Presidents and Congresses. Also, it will be difficult to cancel the vehicle programs once up & running by the private companies.


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