WASHINGTON — NASA is working with the Russian government to update an agreement to allow Russian cosmonauts to fly on the next two SpaceX crew rotation missions to the International Space Station.
In comments at a March 2 briefing after the launch of the Crew-6 briefing, Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for space operations, said negotiations were in progress to update an existing agreement with Roscosmos to add the Crew-7 mission to the station, scheduled to launch this fall.
The original seat barter agreement between the agencies, finalized in July 2022, exchanged one Soyuz seat per year for one Crew Dragon seat. When the agreement was announced, NASA said cosmonauts Anna Kikina and Andrey Fedyaev would fly on Crew-5 and Crew-6 respectively, but did not name assignments for later missions.
At a briefing Jan. 25, Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, said discussions about Crew-7 in the fall were in progress. “We’re not finalized yet on the fall, but we’re continuing to work in that direction,” he said.
Lueders said after the launch of Crew-6 that an update to that agreement to include Crew-7 was in progress. “We’re working that through the Russian government and then back through, obviously, our side to get final agreement,” she said. “That’s our goal, to get this to be able to support integrated crews.”
Such “integrated crews,” where there is one American astronaut on each Soyuz launch and one Russian cosmonaut on each commercial crew launch, is intended to ensure operations of the station should either Soyuz or commercial crew vehicles be unavailable for an extended period.
“With the addition of the Crew-7 agreement we would have coverage for Crew-7 and Crew-8,” the following Crew Dragon rotation mission planned for 2024, Lueders said.
The agreement does not cover flights by Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner vehicle, which has not yet flown astronauts. That vehicle’s Crew Flight Test, which will carry two NASA astronauts to the station, is scheduled for the latter half of April, NASA and Boeing officials said in February. That would allow crew rotation missions, also called post-certification missions (PCMs), to begin in 2024.
“At some point, when we have gone through our Crew Flight Test with Boeing and an initial PCM-1 mission, we would be looking at also adding Boeing to an integrated crew agreement,” Lueders said. “We would like to continue that every single crew rotation mission has integrated crew on it.”
While the negotiations for adding Crew-7 to the seat barter agreement continue, Roscosmos is preparing for it to be approved. In a March 1 post on its Telegram social media account, it announced that Konstantin Borisov would be part of Crew-7 mission and Alexander Grebenkin would fly on Crew-8. The post added that Crew-8 would launch in the first half of 2024, suggesting Roscosmos expects it to take place before the first Starliner crew rotation mission.