Astronaut-cosmonaut crew seat exchange deal finalized
After years of planning, a crew seat exchange deal has been formalized by NASA and Roscosmos and should see a Russian cosmonaut fly in Crew Dragon in September.
Coincidentally, this was announced by NASA the same day the Kremlin announced Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin was replaced. The agency said the exchange agreement was finalized and would see NASA astronaut Frank Rubio fly aboard Soyuz MS-22 in late September 2022 and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina fly with SpaceX’s Crew-5 Dragon, also planned for September.
Rubio will fly with cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin. Kikina will fly with NASA’s Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada and Japan’s Koichi Wakata.
“Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks,” the agency said in a July 15 statement. “It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency aboard the station that requires a crew and the vehicle they are assigned to return to Earth sooner than planned.”
The agency said integrated crews have been the norm throughout the ISS program for that very reason. It is operated by five space agencies — NASA, Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
“The station was designed to be interdependent and relies on contributions from each space agency to function,” NASA said. “No one agency has the capability to function independent of the others.”
This deal is a “no-exchange-of-funds” agreement, and includes transportation to and from the orbiting outpost, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services, NASA said.
In addition to the September crew exchange, another swap is set to occur with Soyuz MS-23 and Crew-6 in the first half of 2023. In that exchange NASA astronaut Laral O’Hara is expected to fly aboard the Russian craft with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, while Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev is expected to fly with NASA’s Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg, along with an unassigned international crew member.
It’s unclear if the change of leadership in Roscosmos from Rogozin to Yury Borisov (formerly the deputy prime minister of Russia for the defense and space industry) will impact this deal going forward.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.