US paid nearly $4 billion to Russia for astronaut transport

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NASA has paid about $4 billion to Russia for the transportation of round-trip astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS).

According to a report issued by Inspector General Paul Martin’s office, during the last 20 years, 85 flights have been carried, carrying 239 astronauts to the ISS on NASA space shuttles or Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

However, since the space shuttle program was completed in 2011, the Soyuz spacecraft have been serving as the only means of transport for round-trip astronauts from the International Space Station.

Until July 2019, NASA bought 70 seats on Russian spacecraft for $3.9 billion to carry 70 astronauts from the United States and its partners to and from the station.

In 2010, NASA signed a series of agreements with US aerospace companies to develop commercial crew transport technologies and subsystems to ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective round trip transportation from the ERA, but there are delays in program implementation.

Boeing and SpaceX are working to conduct the first manned flight tests before performing 12 operational missions to NASA to transport at least 48 astronauts to the International Space Station by 2024.

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However, both companies are attempting to resolve technical and safety issues to obtain the crew transportation permit for ERA.

Meanwhile, the new Starliner spacecraft, developed by the US airline Boeing, is not ready for manned launches as it does not provide satisfactory safety conditions for the crew, Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov believes.

The cosmonaut, decorated as a Hero of Russia, explains that the ship’s parachute system test was not successful.

On Monday, the US company tested the emergency rescue system of its new Starliner manned spacecraft. The tests were conducted at the White Sands Polygon in the US state of New Mexico. One of the three parachutes failed during the test.

The US space agency, NASA, considered the ship’s condition as “acceptable” for crew safety. Unsatisfactory test results in no way affected the schedule for the next unmanned launch of the ship, scheduled for December 17.

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