Here’s one reason to hope that the U.S. can quickly develop commercial alternatives to Earth orbit:
Russia, which is set to hold a monopoly on flights to the international space station (ISS), wants to charge more for rides on its Soyuz rocket, the space agency head said Tuesday.
“At a meeting of the space agency chiefs in Tokyo, I want to discuss the maintenance of transport to the station,” Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
“We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for this. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely different then!”
NASA has signed a deal worth 306 million dollars (224 million euros) with Roskomos for six rides to the ISS in 2012 and 2013, or a charge of 51 million dollars per US astronaut.
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Meanwhile, NASA is looking to purchase additional Soyuz seats in 2013-2014. The space agency issued a new procurement announcement on Tuesday:
NASA/JSC intends to contract with Roscosmos for these services on a sole source basis for 6 Soyuz seats with associated services in CY 2013 with rescue/return services extending through spring 2014. These services are being procured through Roscosmos because the Soyuz is the only other proven crew transportation and rescue vehicle, other than the Space Shuttle which is scheduled to retire in 2010. These services are serving as a bridge between the Space Shuttle and the availability of a commercial vehicle. Until a commercial vehicle is available, continued access to Russian Crew launch, return, and rescue services is essential for planned ISS operations and utilization by all ISS partners.