7 Nov 2019 18:16

NASA tentatively asking for 1-2 extra seats on board Soyuz spacecraft - Roscosmos's Krikalev

ST. PETERSBURG. Nov 7 (Interfax) - The Russian space corporation Roscosmos has not yet conducted negotiations with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on allotting extra seats on board Russian Soyuz manned spacecraft to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Space Programs Sergei Krikalev said.

"There have been no negotiations so far, and there is only a preliminary request, of which you know. It's about one or two seats," Krikalev said on Thursday, when asked by Interfax how many seats NASA has requested.

Krikalev had said earlier on Thursday that Roscosmos was studying NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine's request for allotting extra seats for U.S. astronauts on board Soyuz spacecraft in 2020-2021.

"The initial question has been asked, and it's being discussed. Nothing new has happened apart from that. Roscosmos is thinking over it so far," he said.

Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin had said earlier that the corporation would carry out two extra launches of manned Soyuz spacecraft because of NASA's requests for extra seats.

Rogozin said Bridenstine had asked him to allot extra seats for NASA astronauts because of delays in the commissioning of new U.S. spacecraft.

NASA astronauts would be provided with extra seats in 2020-2021 through cutting the Russian crews of Soyuz spacecraft, he said.

Russia is currently holding a monopoly over delivering crews to the ISS, after the U.S. closed its Space Shuttle program in 2011.

SpaceX and Boeing have been working to build their own manned spacecraft over the past several years, but the dates when the U.S. should resume human spaceflight have been repeatedly postponed.

The current time tentatively indicated by the U.S. for resuming human spaceflight is the middle of 2020. NASA currently has only one seat reserved for its astronaut on board the Soyuz slated to fly to the ISS next spring.

Roscosmos plans only two manned flights to the ISS in 2020, one of them in spring and the other in the fall. The fall flight should be the first ever mission of a fully Russian crew to the ISS. Russia is interested in increasing the number of its crewmembers on board the ISS, as they would have to prepare the station for incorporating the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) into the Russian segment.