Roscosmos and NASA have signed an ISS cross-flight agreement under which the agencies will launch mixed crews of Russian and American cosmonauts on their spacecraft. The first two flights under the agreement will take place in the autumn: Anna Kikina will join the Crew Dragon crew, and Francisco Rubio will fly on the Soyuz.
This happened shortly after the dismissal of Dmitry Rogozin as head of the Russian Space Corporation was announced
Shortly after the dismissal of Dmitry Rogozin as the head of the Russian space corporation “Roscosmos” was announced on July 15, it and the American space agency NASA announced that they had concluded an agreement for joint flights of manned spacecraft crews of Russia and the United States , the world agencies reported.
Russia and the United States have vast experience in joint space flights. The first such missions took place back in the mid-1990s: in 1994, Sergey Krikalev flew into orbit on the Discovery shuttle, and in 1995, Norman Thagard went to the Mir station on the Soyuz TM-21 spacecraft. Cross-flights made it possible to develop cooperation in general, and also increased the reliability of the Mir and ISS programs. In case of problems with the ship of one country, its astronaut could fly to the station on the ship of another. And besides, in an emergency situation, all members of the expedition had experience in controlling a spacecraft.
After the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, U.S. astronauts flew to the ISS exclusively on Russian Soyuz spacecraft until NASA got the U.S. SpaceX-designed Crew Dragon. After its first crewed flight at the end of 2020, there was only one joint flight in early 2021, and then the Soyuz flew only with a Russian crew, with the exception of one flight with Japanese space tourists.
Until recently, NASA paid for the flights of its astronauts on Russian spacecraft. So, in 2020, the agency paid $ 90 million for one seat on the Soyuz, and also promised to deliver a total of 800 kilograms of Russian cargo. The new agreement between Roskosmos and NASA does not imply payment for flights, but the exchange of seats on spacecraft.
Now we know about at least a couple of cross flights, the first two will take place this fall. So, Anna Kikina will become a crew member of the Crew-5 mission along with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, as well as JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. This is the first flight by a Russian cosmonaut on an American spacecraft since the days of the shuttle, and also the first flight by Kikina, who is now the only woman in the Russian cosmonaut corps.
The exact date of the flight is not yet known, but it is expected to take place in September. Another crossover flight is scheduled for the same month: Soyuz MS-22 will travel to the ISS with NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin. The next pair of flights will take place in 2023, when Andrey Fedyaev will go to the ISS as part of the Crew-6 mission, and Loral O’Hara will take part in the Soyuz MS-23 mission.
Probably, in the future, the second American manned spacecraft, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, will also be used for cross-flights. His first flight was unsuccessful, but in May 2022 he successfully flew to the ISS and returned, so at the end of this year or early next year he should start carrying astronauts to the ISS.