NASA is planning to purchase an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft by way of Texas-based aerospace agency Axiom Area, in line with two folks conversant in the plans. The seat is a backup for NASA in case its upcoming trip with SpaceX runs into technical issues, and it suggests the company is continuing cautiously.
The company introduced Tuesday it was weighing choices to obtain a Soyuz seat as a security web to maintain the Worldwide Area Station staffed with US astronauts. It’s the second time NASA has procured a Russian seat by way of a US-based firm, following a cope with Boeing in 2017 for 5 Soyuz seats. This time, the deal is with Axiom – a startup that arranges non-public astronaut rides to house.
The phrases of the settlement for the astronaut seat are nonetheless being negotiated, in line with the 2 individuals who spoke The Verge beneath the situation of anonymity as a result of the talks are non-public.
The house company relied on Russia to offer rides to the house station when the US shuttle program retired in 2011. NASA began its Industrial Crew Program after Russia hiked the costs of its Soyuz seats as excessive as $90 million — with out it, Russia would have been the one possibility. Final 12 months, SpaceX launched its first crew of US astronauts to house beneath this system.
An Axiom spokesman declined to remark.
“A U.S. firm reached out to NASA with a proposal that might meet NASA’s wants,” company spokesman Josh Finch mentioned in a press release to The Verge. “Nonetheless, we’re unable to share the identify of the corporate as NASA has not entered into any settlement relating to the seat and that data is procurement delicate.”
NASA has been in talks with Russia’s house company, Roscosmos, for months to commerce Crew Dragon or Boeing Starliner seats for added seats on Soyuz spacecraft, fairly than shopping for these seats with money. NASA expects to fly Russian cosmonauts alongside American astronauts beginning in fall 2021, Finch mentioned. The astronaut within the Axiom-brokered Soyuz seat would fly someday between spring and fall of this 12 months, he mentioned.
In 2020, NASA purchased a Soyuz seat from Russia for Kate Rubins for $90 million — and agreed to launch Russian cargo to the station for a interval of two years, an “in-kind” deal doubtlessly price thousands and thousands extra. Now, NASA needs a seat on the April 10th MS-18 mission, which already has three Russian astronauts booked to fly. The cope with Axiom would doubtless contain booting one of many Russians from MS-18 to make room for a US astronaut.
It was unclear how a lot NASA is contemplating paying Axiom for the one Soyuz seat or what lower Axiom would get from the deal. Shopping for Soyuz seats from a US firm has solely occurred as soon as earlier than, in 2017. Then, NASA purchased from Boeing, which had obtained the rights to 5 seats in an unrelated settlement with Russia’s Energia. Boeing offered the seats to NASA for a complete of $374 million, the company mentioned on the time.