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January 20, 2014 13:13

NASA, Roscosmos to sign new transportation services contract by summer

MOSCOW. Jan 20 (Interfax-AVN) - The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and NASA will sign a contract extending the period of transportation of foreign astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by Russia's Soyuz spaceships by summer, Energia Corporation President and General Designer Vitaly Lopota told Interfax-AVN.

"NASA plans to extend its order for transportation of astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA spaceships. Negotiations may be held in the beginning of 2014 in order to sign adjusted contracts in the first half of the year and to start the construction of the spaceships and the selection and training of joint crews," he said.

ISS crews may grow in three to four years after the beginning of manned flights of Dragon and CST-100 ships consistent with the NASA expectations, Lopota said.

"This possibility is envisaged by the existent international documents regarding the ISS program," the Energia chief continued.

In this case NASA will handle the launches and operations of its crewmembers on its own, he said.

According to Lopota, it will be impossible to resume space tourism programs in the near future.

"The flights of "tourists", i.e. space mission members, will hardly justify [the expenditures on] special Soyuz launches. "Tourists" can fly only in connection to the rotation of ISS crews. Yet such periods of indirect crew rotations are absent now," Lopota said.

Roscosmos manned programs supervisor Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN earlier that Roscosmos and NASA had basically agreed on transportation of foreign astronauts to the ISS by Russian Soyuz spaceships after 2016.

"The existent contract stipulates the transportation of astronauts to the ISS by Russian Soyuz [spacecraft] until 2017, but a Roscosmos delegation agreed with NASA a month ago that the contract would be extended until the end of 2017. Foreign astronauts will travel by Soyuz together with Russians in 2017 or a bit longer," Krasnov said.

The agencies struck a $306 million deal in May 2009 on transportation of six astronauts to the station in 2012.

NASA and Roscosmos signed a $335 million contract in April 2010 to transport six astronauts to the ISS and back in 2013.

NASA announced in March 2011 it had concluded a $753 million contract with Roscosmos on the transportation of twelve astronauts to the ISS and back by Soyuz spaceships in the period from 2014 through June 2016.

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