NASA still working on long-term plans for ISS seat barters

WASHINGTON — As NASA prepares to launch one other industrial crew mission with a Russian cosmonaut on board, the company says it has but to work out an settlement with Roscosmos on future crew swaps.

At a Jan. 25 briefing, company officers stated they’re shifting forward with plans to launch the Crew-6 Crew Dragon mission to the Worldwide Area Station on Feb. 26 at 2:07 a.m. Japanese. The spacecraft will ship to the station NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, Emirati astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

Fedyaev would be the second Russian cosmonaut to fly on Crew Dragon, after Anna Kikina, who launched on Crew-5 in October 2022 and can return from the station in early March. These flights had been enabled by a seat barter agreement completed in July 2022 that additionally allowed American astronauts to fly on Soyuz spacecraft. NASA had lengthy sought what it referred to as “built-in crews” on visiting autos to make sure that there could be each Individuals and Russians on the station within the occasion both Soyuz or industrial crew autos had been unavailable for an prolonged interval.

On the time of the announcement, NASA stated the settlement coated the flights of Kikina and Fedyaev on Crew Dragon and NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Loral O’Hara on Soyuz. Rubio launched on Soyuz MS-22 in September 2022, but damage to that spacecraft in December will extend his stay, alongside along with his two Russian crewmates, as Roscosmos will substitute it with an uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 launching Feb. 20.

That may delay the flight of O’Hara, who had been initially scheduled to launch in March with Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, seemingly till the autumn on Soyus MS-24. Nonetheless, NASA managers stated the company has not finalized plans but for future built-in crews.

“Proper now we’re nonetheless working with Roscosmos on the swap within the fall of this yr,” stated Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program supervisor. “We’re not finalized but on the autumn, however we’re persevering with to work in that path.”

He and others stated they need to proceed to trade seats between Soyuz and industrial crew missions. “Built-in crew, and that built-in crew technique and planning, helped us actually be capable to work on having probably the most strong technique doable” to cope with the Soyuz MS-22 downside, stated Kathy Lueders, NASA affiliate administrator for area operations.

At a separate briefing Jan. 25, Bowen, commander of Crew-6, endorsed continued use of built-in crews. “I feel it’s a bonus for all of us.”

Busy mission

Crew-6 is scheduled to spend six months on the ISS. A full schedule of analysis actions is deliberate, in addition to spacewalks close to the tip of their keep to put in a last set of recent photo voltaic panels for the station.

Crew-6 can even see a excessive cadence of visiting autos. That may begin, Montalbano stated, with a cargo Dragon mission, SpaceX CRS-27, scheduled to launch about 12 days after Crew-6, a schedule Montalbano stated may slip if there are delays within the return of Crew-5. A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission, NG-19, will observe in early April.

That will probably be adopted by two crewed missions making short-term visits. The crewed flight check of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, with NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams on board, is at the moment scheduled to launch in mid-April. The Starliner crew capsule was mated to its service module final week in Florida.

“We’re actually trying ahead” to Starliner, stated Bowen. Having two corporations in a position to transport astronauts to the station “will change the best way we glance how we fly to area.”

Later within the second quarter will characteristic a go to by Ax-2, the second personal astronaut mission by Axiom Area. NASA stated Jan. 20 that it and the opposite ISS companions had authorised the crew for that mission, which will probably be commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson with an Axiom buyer, John Shoffner, serving as pilot.

The NASA assertion didn’t disclose the opposite two individuals flying on Ax-2, stating solely that these two mission specialists “will probably be introduced later.” They’re extensively believed to be astronauts from Saudi Arabia beneath a deal Axiom Space and the Saudi Space Commission announced in September 2022. A NASA official confirmed at a November committee assembly that Saudi astronauts would fly on Ax-2 and had already started training.

Bowen stated he and the Crew-6 crew had talked with Whitson and Shoffner in regards to the upcoming Ax-2 mission. “We expect it’s going to be a fantastic alternative, a fantastic flight after they get to go to,” he stated. The Ax-2 mission will spend a few week on the station. “They’ve a fantastic plan for his or her mission and we’ll do what we will to help them.”

One other SpaceX cargo Dragon will observe Ax-2, delivering photo voltaic arrays. Hoburg stated it’s going to take two or three spacewalks to put in that last pair of arrays that can enhance the station’s energy.

“We’re going to be busy,” Bowen stated. “We’re going to be drained, nevertheless it’s going to be loads of enjoyable.”


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