NASA has decided to fork out more cash to buy extra Soyuz seats to take its crews to the International Space Station. The deal signed with Roscosmos is valued at $424 million is for six “seats” and training and adds to an earlier deal to carry NASA astronauts until 2016. The new deal extension equates to a per seat price of $70.7 million – an increase of $10 million over the previous NASA Soyuz seat buy. NASA found itself forced into this position as its commercial crew capability will now not be ready until 2017 at the earliest and NASA needed to book these seats to cover itself until mid-2017.
NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden notes the delay to US provided commercial crew capability has been down to funding reductions forced on the administration.
Comment by David Todd: There is a danger that the pressing need for a US commercial crew capability may force the hand of NASA into choosing one of its three remaining contenders (SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada) to fund over the others. Of these, favourite for a funding boost is SpaceX which seems to be furthest down the road in having an unmanned version of its proposed crewed Dragon vehicle already flying, docking with and being recovered from the International Space Station. Nevertheless, this may not be the best choice for the longer term.