WASHINGTON, March 10. /TASS/. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a statement it did not pay for the April 9 flight of a US astronaut on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Instead, it provided a seat on the US spacecraft, which is due to be launched in 2023.
"To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA has signed a contract with a U.S. commercial company Axiom Space of Houston to fly a NASA astronaut on an upcoming Soyuz rotation on Soyuz MS-18, scheduled to launch April 9. In exchange, NASA will provide a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft, expected to launch in 2023, as part of a space station crew rotation mission," according to the statement. "The "seat" on each flight includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and comprehensive mission support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services."
The contract contains no exchange of funds "because the services are determined to be of comparable value to both parties."
Earlier, Russian state space corporation Roscosmos announced that Russian cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov had been pulled out of the main crew of the manned Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft and would be replaced by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. In the back-up crew, cosmonaut Dmitry Petelin will be replaced by NASA astronaut Anne McClain.
According to the state corporation, this decision was made in line with the current commitments under an agreement with the Axiom Space company on carrying out a space flight of a professional US astronaut onboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. Roscosmos stressed that it had made this decision in order to confirm "commitment to joint agreements and the spirit of joint use of the ISS."
In late February, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin announced that this year’s first manned launch to the International Space Station would be conducted on April 9. According to Rogozin, the Soyuz MS-18 crew would be international. NASA said earlier that it was looking at applying for an extra seat for a US astronaut onboard this spacecraft. Roscosmos said back then that it was waiting for particular proposals on that matter.