NASA Strikes $44 Million Deal For Soyuz Flights

WASHINGTON- NASA will pay the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) $21.8 millionper passenger for Soyuz rides to and from the International Space Station (ISS)starting this spring.

NASAspokeswoman Melissa Mathews said Jan. 5 that the U.S. space agency and itsRussian counterpart concluded a $43.8 million deal just before New Year's Daythat includes Soyuz transportation to and from the space station for NASA'snewly named Expedition 13 crew member, Jeff Williams, and a ride home forastronaut BillMcArthur, who has been living onboard the station since October.

Under thedeal, Russia also will provide what Mathews described as "a small amount" ofcargo space aboard a Progressresupply ship slated to launch to the station later this year and initial Soyuztraining for NASA's Expedition 14 crew member. That astronaut will head to the stationthis autumn aboard a Soyuz if the space shuttle is not back in service by then.

Theagreement also reserves a seat for Williams should he and his cosmonautcrewmate be forced to evacuate the station aboard a Soyuz craft in anemergency.

As part ofits contribution to the space station program, Russia has set aside Soyuz seatsfor American astronauts at no charge to the United States since 2000. But thatdeal essentially expired last October when Russia launchedthe 11th and final Soyuz called for under an earlier bilateral agreement.

Mathewsdescribed the new agreement as a short term extension of an existing contractNASA signed with the Russian space agency before the Iran Nonproliferation Actbecame law in 2000. That act barred NASA from paying Russiafor any space station-related goods and services as long as Russia continues tohelp Iran acquire missiles and other advanced weaponry.

The law wasamended bythe U.S. Congress at the request of the White House in late 2005, clearing theway for NASA buy Soyuz and Progress services from Russia until 2011, when thetemporary relief would expire.

While NASAhas only contracted for six months of services at this point, Mathews saidRussia has agreed to honor the $21.8 million per seat price through 2011.

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