International Space Station: Russia to take tourists to satellite when US stops supporting it

Agency will use space tourism to make up for the lack of money received from ISS contracts

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The Independent Online

The Russian space agency will take space tourists to the International Space Station, it has said. The move will make up for money that Roscosmos, the state space agency, will lose when Nasa stops paying it to carry astronauts.

Russia has taken tourists up to the satellite before — carrying eight between 2001 and 2009 — but stopped the programme when the ISS expanded its crews and Nasa and others needed the space to take astronauts. But the country will begin the programme again to make up for the fact that Nasa is moving away from using Russian rockets to send astronauts into space, and instead moving such missions to American, privately developed spacecraft.

While Nasa astronauts continue to be taken to space in Russia’s Soyuz ships, with the US paying for a vacant third seat because it doesn’t have a piloted spacecraft of its own after the shuttle project shut down in 2011. But the country has been encouraging private company’s like SpaceX and Boeing to develop craft, that Nasa will then pay those US companies to use.

Nasa’s contract, which costs $76 million a year, will come to an end in 2017. And while it may be renewed the year after, Russia does not expect it to continue for much longer.

A statement from the Energiya space corporation, the subsidiary of the space agency that looks after manned flights, said: "Roscosmos and NASA may sign an agreement on delivery of astronauts in 2018," Izvestia said. "It may be the last agreement in the series, as NASA contractors promise to complete construction and testing of new manned spaceships the Dragon manufactured by SpaceX and the CST-100 manufactured by Boeing in 2018."

The agency said that the step of giving the vacant third seat to commercial tourists would be natural.