NASA is about to launch its first commercial manned launch with SpaceX, a space exploration technology company, in the hope of ending its reliance on Russian spacecraft,media reported. But even if the launch is successful, NASA hopes to continue to buy seats for the Russian spacecraft and work with it on new ties.
NASA is understood to be in talks with the Russian space agency to buy another seat on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which will launch this fall. After completing the deal, NASA hopes to reach a new cooperation agreement with the Russian space agency to exchange seats on each other’s spacecraft in exchange for more access to space.
That would mean that U.S. astronauts would still be in space aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and Russian astronauts would be able to fly on SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft.
Since ending its space shuttle program in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russian spacecraft as its only tool for transporting astronauts to and from the space station. But that’s only a temporary solution, and NASA’s cost of buying each seat is about $85 million. NASA has chosen SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft and rockets to transport their astronauts.
NASA’s first manned flight with SpaceX is scheduled for May 27, the first time the agency has launched astronauts from the U.S. mainland in nearly a decade.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly a manned Dragon spacecraft to the space station, where they will stay for 110 days. Not only will they assess the spacecraft’s performance at different stages of the mission, but they will also assist NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy in the daily maintenance of the space station.