NASA and Roscosmos continue seat barter discussions

WASHINGTON — NASA is continuing to work with Roscosmos on a seat barter agreement despite missing a self-imposed deadline last month to complete a deal in time to allow exchanges on missions launching this fall.

In April, NASA International Space Station officials said they needed to have an agreement between NASA and Roscosmos finalized by late June in order to have a Russian cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, fly on the Crew-5 Crew Dragon mission in early September and an American astronaut, likely Frank Rubio, fly on the Soyuz MS-22 mission launching later in September.

While the Russian government gave its approval June 10 to allow Roscosmos to complete an agreement with NASA on exchanging seats, neither agency has confirmed that agreement is in place or finalized crew assignments for the two missions launching in September.

“NASA continues working toward an agreement with Roscosmos whereby we would routinely fly integrated crews to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz and the commercial crew spacecraft,” NASA spokesperson Josh Finch told SpaceNews July 1.

The agencies appear to be preserving the possibility of exchanging seats on the two September missions. Roscosmos announced June 25 that Kikina was going to the United States for additional training, including fitting for a Crew Dragon pressure suit. The statement said that Kikina was still being considered for the Crew-5 mission, which Roscosmos said is scheduled for launch Sept. 1. NASA has not announced a launch date for the mission.

NASA has long worked to secure a seat barter agreement with Roscosmos to enable “mixed crews” so that there is at least one NASA astronaut and one Roscosmos cosmonaut on the station should either Soyuz or commercial crew vehicles be grounded for an extended period. That advocacy has continued even after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine strained relations between Russia and the other ISS partners.

“We are proceeding on the seat swap,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said June 15 in a joint press conference with Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, citing the interdependence between the U.S. and Russian segments of the station. “Therefore, we will proceed on that basis.” He did not give a schedule for completing an agreement for a seat swap.

NASA astronauts, meanwhile, have been training for potential Soyuz flights to the ISS. The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center released June 29 images from recent training for emergency water landings of Soyuz spacecraft. Among those participating in the training was NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, who was identified as being part of the Expedition 70 crew.

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