NASA has announced its intention to purchase six additional seats aboard Russian Soyuz crew transports to maintain America’s presence aboard the International Space Station through 2018.
“NASA needs to secure crew transportation with a known reliable provider to ensure a continued U.S. presence aboard the ISS until the sustained availability of a U.S. commercial vehicle,” the space agency said in its notice. “The intent of this proposed action is to provide the Government the ability to procure these uninterrupted services until a U.S. provider demonstrates full operational capability.”
Boeing and SpaceX are currently working on crew transports which are scheduled to be ready to deliver astronauts to ISS on a commercial basis in late 2017. Purchasing Soyuz seats is a hedge against delays in the program.
“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,” the space agency said.
Under its most recent contract, Soyuz seats cost approximately $76 million apiece.