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[b]NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency[/b]
NASA has signed a $753 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation, rescue and related services from 2014 through June 2016. The firm-fixed price modification covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue of long-duration missions for 12 individual space station crew members.
NASA has efforts underway to develop an American-made commercial capability for crew transportation and rescue services to the station following this year's retirement of the space shuttle fleet. Agency Administrator Charles Bolden cited this week's Soyuz contract extension as a reminder of how critically important those efforts are.
"The president's 2012 budget request boosts funding for our partnership with the commercial space industry and prioritizes our efforts to ensure that American astronauts and the cargo they need are transported by American companies rather than continuing to outsource this work to foreign governments," Bolden said. "This new approach in getting our crews and cargo into orbit will create good jobs and expand opportunities for our American economy. If we are to win the future and out build our competitors, it's essential that we make this program a success."
NASA made Commercial Crew Development awards in 2010 to stimulate efforts within the private sector, encouraging them to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities. The agency anticipates these systems will be available by the middle of the decade.
These services will provide our primary transportation to and from the International Space Station for U.S., Canadian, European and Japanese astronauts. To ensure a smooth transition as this new capability is developed, Soyuz support will continue as a backup capability for about a year after commercial services begin.
With this contract modification, station crew members may launch on Soyuz vehicles during a 24-month period. The contract will provide for the launch of six people in calendar year 2014 and six more in 2015, as well as their return to Earth in the spring of 2016 after a six-month stay aboard the station. The extended contract ends June 30, 2016.
Under the contract modification, the Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and assist with the disposal of trash. The cargo provided per Soyuz seat is approximately 110 pounds (50 kilograms) launched to the station, approximately 37 pounds (17 kilograms) returned to Earth and trash disposal of approximately 66 pounds (30 kilograms).
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