Russian spacewalk
Two Russian cosmonauts performing a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Space Adventures has signed a contract with Energia for a Soyuz flight to the ISS for two private astronauts that will include an option for one of them to perform a spacewalk. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — Space tourism company Space Adventures has signed a contract with RSC Energia for a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station that will include an opportunity for one customer to perform a spacewalk.

Under the contract announced June 25, a Soyuz spacecraft will fly a “short duration” mission, which Space Adventures described in a statement as lasting 14 days, to the ISS with two spaceflight participants and one professional cosmonaut on board. The contract is similar to an agreement announced in February 2019 for a 2021 Soyuz flight to the station, also with two spaceflight participants and one professional cosmonaut on board.

The new contract, though, would include the opportunity for one of the spaceflight participants to walk in space. According to a Roscosmos statement, that person, along with a Russian cosmonaut, would perform a spacewalk from the station’s Russian segment.

“A private citizen completing a spacewalk would be another huge step forward in private spaceflight,” Eric Anderson, chairman and chief executive of Space Adventures, said in a company statement. “We applaud our colleagues at Energia for working with us to create amazing new adventures in space.”

The idea of a spacewalk by a private astronaut has been floated for years as an add-on to an orbital space tourism flight. Space Adventures has promoted spacewalks from the ISS on its website for several years as a unique experience. Every person who has done a spacewalk to date has been a professional astronaut.

However, a spacewalk would require customers to conduct additional training on top of standard spaceflight training as Russia’s Star City facility. It would also likely have a significant additional cost. “The price of the spacewalk depends on the timing of your mission and other factors,” Space Adventures’ website states, not giving a specific price.

The timing of the mission is not clear. The Roscosmos statement said the mission will launch in 2023. However, Stacey Tearne, a spokesperson for Space Adventures, said the mission will take place “once we have identified and contracted with customers,” and did not confirm the 2023 date from the Roscosmos statement.

Tearne said this mission is separate from the contract announced last year for a late 2021 Soyuz mission, which does not include a spacewalk opportunity. The company has not provided an update on progress it’s made signing up customers for that flight.

The company is best known for brokering flights for several people on Soyuz missions to the ISS starting nearly 20 years ago. Space Adventures arranged flights of seven people on eight trips to the ISS (one customer, Charles Simonyi, flew twice) using seats available on Soyuz flights from 2001 through 2009. Those flights ended, though, because of a lack of Soyuz seats when that spacecraft became the exclusive means of accessing the station.

Space Adventures did have another customer for an ISS flight, singer Sarah Brightman, who was to fly to the station when a seat became available as part of a “one-year” mission on the station in 2015. Brightman, though, backed out several months before the mission, citing “personal family reasons.” A cosmonaut from Kazakhstan flew in her place.

In February, Space Adventures announced a contract with SpaceX for a dedicated Crew Dragon flight. That mission, scheduled for launch between late 2021 and the middle of 2022, will carry four spaceflight participants on a five-day flight that would orbit the Earth at more than twice the altitude of the ISS.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...