The Russian newswire RIA Novosti is reporting that the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency has stated that the International Space Station will be off limits to tourists, aka spaceflight participants, from June 2009
While Space Adventures has its fifth space tourist Charles Simonyi returning to the ISS in April for the company’s seventh commercial trip the US space tourism provider has acknowledged that the increase in station crew to six from May will mean there are no more spare Energia Soyuz spacecraft seats for its customers
In response to the forthcoming end to ISS flights the company put out a press release entitled Space Adventures Announces Agreement for the First Private Mission to the International Space Station on 11 June 2008 about a private mission to the ISS using the Soyuz-Soyuz launch system in the second half of 2011
But I can’t see how that spacecraft can dock with ISS? You have two Soyuz crew craft taking up two ports and a Khrunichev Progress supply ship and either ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) or Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle taking up the others. And if this commercial Soyuz is visiting the station don’t you think Houston mission control will want to be involved?
For ESA’s ATV Jules Verne flight both Houston and Moscow mission controls were involved. How much will NASA charge for its personnel’s time to help with that private mission?
Is this why Roscosmos’ head has now said that ISS is “off-limits”?
As of today the ISS will only operate till 2015 or 2016 although in principal all of the station’s space agency partners have agreed to an extension to 2020. But NASA must address this in its FY2010 budget (the agency uses five-year plans) and ESA is yet to get an endorsement by its ministerial council, the next one of which is in 2011 (though in theory with its triennial budgets the 2014 ministerial could be the latest, depending upon ATV provision requirements)
Even if an entirely commercial Soyuz was used how many opportunities are there going to be for a private mission to ISS from 2012 to 2015 inclusive?