On October 14, there was a launch of a Soyuz spacecraft from the International Space Station. As much as it may not be the last time NASA is flying its astronauts, there are high chances that it will not pay Russia to do that in the same.
The Soyuz-2.1a ricked lifted off the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. After its launch at 1:45 a.m. Eastern, the spacecraft was already into the orbit less than 10 minutes later. By 4:48 a.m. Eastern, it had already docked with the Rassvet module at the station. It achieved that by making a two-orbit approach, which was ultra-fast.
Its occupants included Kate Rubins, a NASA astronaut, and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, Roscosmos cosmonauts. They will stay for six months. The ISS crew now has six members since there were already three before the recent trio’s arrival. Previous occupants are Chris Cassidy from NASA and Roscosmos’ Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. They will be onboard on Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft when returning to Earth on October 21.
Rubins’ seat cost NASA $90.25 million and the agency at the same time announced that it was the last Soyuz seat that it was buying from Roscosmos. That entirely contradicts the NASA officials’ statement that they would be purchasing a seat and even an extra one for an upcoming launch next year around spring.
According to NASA, it will be the commercial crew’s responsibility to take astronauts to and from ISS. The first crewed mission, Space-X Crew-1 mission, is scheduled to take off in November either early or mid. Onboard will be an astronaut from the Japanese space agency JAXA and three from NASA. The other one, Crew-2 mission, will launch in 2021’s spring. Occupants will comprise astronauts from the European Space Agency, JAXA, and NASA.
Boeing has experienced delays in the developments of its CTS-100 Starliner. Therefore, come June, or after that, it will fly a crewed test flight. Three NASA astronauts will be onboard. There will be a second test in December 2021 or January 2022. After that, it will start its routine astronaut transport missions.
As much as NASA is not willing to pay for a seat, it doesn’t necessarily mark the end of its astronauts using Soyuz spacecraft in the future. Instead, it is advocating for mixed crews. Therefore, NASA is looking forward to a time when Russia cosmonauts would use commercial crew missions too. Russia is yet to agree, stating that it cannot commit to that before NASA registers a successful U.S. commercial crew flight. NASA is advocating for a mixed crew to help both America and Russia to have teams in the International Space Station at all times.