(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — NASA astronauts will go back to riding Russian rockets under an agreement announced Friday, and Russian cosmonauts will catch lifts to the International Space Station with SpaceX beginning this fall.
NASA and Russian officials said that agreement will ensure the station has at least one American astronaut and one Russian to maintain smooth operation. The swap had long been in the works and was finalized despite tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, a sign of continuing Russia-U.S. cooperation in space.
Frank Rubio, a U.S. spaceman from the United States will launch with two Russians to the orbiting station in September. Anna Kikina from Russia will be joining two Americans and one Japanese on a SpaceX rocket that is flying out of Florida in September. Next spring, another crew swap will take place.
NASA states that the agreement will not allow for any money to be swapped.
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NASA astronauts routinely launched on Russian Soyuz rockets — for tens of millions of dollars apiece — until SpaceX started flying station crews from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2020. Russian cosmonauts rode to the space station on NASA’s shuttles back in the early 2000s. Before that, during the 1990s, astronauts and cosmonauts took turns flying on each other’s spacecraft to and from Russia’s Mir station.
Friday’s news came just hours after the blustery chief of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, was replaced by President Vladimir Putin, although the move did not appear to have any connection to the crew swap. Rogozin was to receive a new job.
NASA said the agreement will “ensure continued safe operations” of the space station and protect those living on board. The seven astronauts currently in orbit are three Americans and an Italian, who flew to the station with SpaceX. Three Russians arrived on board in Soyuz.
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