Faced with the loss of a NASA contract to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, Roscosmos plans to restart a program to fly tourists to the orbiting laboratory in 2018:
“We plan compensating for the fall of demand for manned spaceships of the Soyuz family after 2018 by resuming short-term commercial expeditions to the Russian segment of the ISS,” Izvestia daily quoted a quarterly report posted by Energiya space corporation, the federal agency’s main subsidiary in the field of manned orbital flights.
At present, NASA buys out the vacant third chairs on the Soyuz ships, since the U.S. does not have piloted spacecraft at the moment, as the Space Shuttle project ended in 2011. In line with the contract for 2017, delivery of an astronaut to space and back to the Earth costs $ 76 million, inclusive of training.
“Roscosmos and NASA may sign an agreement on delivery of astronauts in 2018,” Izvestia said. “It may be the last agreement in the series, as NASA contractors promise to complete construction and testing of new manned spaceships the Dragon manufactured by SpaceX and the CST-100 manufactured by Boeing in 2018.”
Russia flew seven tourists on eight flights to ISS between 2001 and 2009. The flights were suspended when the crew of the space station doubled from three to six and NASA ended its space shuttle program. The Russian Soyuz is the only transport capable of carrying astronauts to the station.
Singer Sarah Brightman will become the next space tourist in September. That mission is possible because two astronauts will be spending a full year on the station, opening up a seat on a Soyuz transport.