US And Russia Agrees To Swap Seats On ISS Flights

The US may have imposed economic sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, but in space, the two countries are finding ways to continue working together. NASA and Roscosmos have signed a long-awaited agreement to swap seats on flights to the International Space Station. The agreement will ensure that both the US- and the Russian-operated segments of the station will never be unmanned in case of canceled flights or other emergencies.

NASA Relied On The Russians In Past Also

After the shuttle’s retirement in 2011, the U.S. relied on Russia’s Soyuz for sending American astronauts to the space station until 2020, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule revived NASA’s human spaceflight capability and began routine ISS flights from Florida.

What Is The Purpose Behind Such Agreement?

The agreement will ensure that both the US- and the Russian-operated segments of the station will never be unmanned in case of canceled flights or other emergencies.

“Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks,” NASA said in a statement on Friday.

When Will The First Integrated Flights Take Place?

The first integrated flights under the new agreement will come in September, NASA said, with U.S. astronaut Frank Rubio launching to the space station from the Moscow-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan alongside two cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin.

In exchange, cosmonaut Anna Kikina will join two U.S. astronauts and a Japanese astronaut on a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the orbital laboratory, launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Agreement Signed At A Critical Time

The announcement comes at the same time as the dismissal of Dmitry Rogozin as head of Roscosmos. Rogozin had made controversial statements and decisions for years, but especially in the last few months after Russia invaded Ukraine. Roscosmos, under his leadership, also circulated images of cosmonauts holding flags of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. NASA later issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns the use of the International Space Station for political purposes in support.” [the] War against Ukraine.” Though Kremlin spokesman clarified that Rogozin’s dismissal had nothing to do with his performance or controversial statements he made.

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