NASA yesterday announced that it has added an American astronaut to the next manned mission to ISS, set for October.
NASA said that Kayla Barron will join the Crew-3 mission, launching on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled for launch no earlier than Oct. 23. Barron joins NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, who had been assigned to Crew-3 last December.
The Crew-3 mission will relieve the Crew-2 astronauts who arrived at the station on another Crew Dragon spacecraft April 24. The four Crew-3 astronauts will remain on the station for a six-month stay.
The space agency had been holding that seat open for a Russian, as part of its long term barter arrangement whereby in exchange for flying Americans on Soyuz capsules, Russia flies Russians on American spacecraft. That arrangement had been used repeatedly when the shuttle was flying, but since its retirement the U.S. has been forced to buy its seats on Soyuz as it had nothing to offer in exchange.
With the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule however NASA has been trying to get the Russians to renew that arrangement. And though an American, Mark Vande Hei, flew for free on a Soyuz last month, the Russians have as yet refused to assign their own astronaut to this upcoming October flight, despite months of negotiations. It appears NASA decided it could wait no longer, and filled the seat with its own astronaut.
In fact, the announcement by Roscosmos on May 13th that the next two Soyuz launches to ISS will carry two commercial passengers each means that Vande Hei cannot return on a Soyuz until next year. The seat he would have used to come home now must be used by these tourists, meaning his mission will now be extended to last for as much as a full year or more.
Unless of course NASA decides to bring him home on a Dragon capsule instead.
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