The price of going to orbit just rose again. NASA has signed a $335 million contract for Soyuz flight services for 2013-14. The contract covers flights for six astronauts at a rate of $55.83 million per seat.
The Associated Press reports that this is nearly double $26.3 million per astronaut that NASA now pays for rides on Soyuz. It is also an increase over the approximately $51 million the space agency will pay in 2011-12.
Soyuz will be the only transportation to and from the station after NASA retires the space shuttle, which has three flights left after the current Discovery mission. The final flight is scheduled for later this year, although the schedule could slip into early 2011. It is not clear when the United States will field a successor vehicle.
In order maintain a crew of six aboard ISS without the space shuttle, Russia is doubling its annual production of three-person Soyuz vehicles from two to four. NASA says is one of the reasons for the price increase. A Russian official was recently quoted as saying that production rates would increase to five per year so that dedicated space tourism missions could be flown beginning in 2012.
NASA PRESS RELEASE
NASA has signed a $335 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation, rescue and related services in 2013 and 2014.
The firm-fixed price modification covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for six individual station crew members.
In this contract modification, space station crew members will launch on four Soyuz vehicles in 2013 and return on two vehicles in 2013 and two in 2014.
Under the contract modification, the Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and disposal of trash. The cargo allowed per person is approximately 110 pounds (50 kilograms) launched to the station, approximately 37 pounds (17 kilograms) returned to Earth, and trash disposal of approximately 66 pounds (30 kilograms).