Cosmonauts won’t use American spacecraft over safety concerns, even if an agreement with NASA is reached
Cosmonauts will not fly on American spacecraft over safety concerns, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s national space agency Roscosmos, said on Saturday. He added that the agreement with NASA to share seats on each other’s spacecraft hasn’t been reached yet.
According to Rogozin, NASA is the driving force behind the seat-swapping initiative, because the Americans do not want to “lose their flight skills on Russian ships.” The crossover system dictates that the Russian Soyuz MS will take one American, and in return one Russian will have a seat on an American ship.
NASA intends to alternate every six months between private American aerospace manufacturers SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner, once the latter is operational.
Rogozin described the troubled Boeing Starliner spacecraft as being in “critical condition.”
“It flew for the first time with trouble. The second time it couldn’t fly at all. The delay of the launch has been going on for over two years now. Now, they will try to launch it. But we will definitely not put any of our cosmonauts [on board], we cannot risk their lives,” he told Rossiya 24 TV channel in an interview.
Though Boeing managed to launch the first Starliner successfully in December 2019, a software problem made it impossible to dock with the ISS. Last August, an attempt to launch an unmanned test flight had to be called off after mission teams detected problems with a valve linked to the Starliner’s propulsion systems. The next launch attempt for Starliner without a crew, called OFT-2, is scheduled for next Thursday.
Until recently, NASA had no capability to reach the space station, relying on Russian help, since it grounded its shuttle fleet in 2011. It was paying Roscosmos roughly $81 million per seat in 2018. In May 2020, Crew Dragon, a reusable spacecraft made by Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX, took two Americans to space on a US-made vehicle for the first time in nine years.
In 2021, it was announced that Anna Kikina, the only woman in the Russian cosmonaut corps, could fly on Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon in August, if the seat-swapping agreement had been reached. But the situation has “drastically changed” since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Rogozin explained, citing sanctions from the US. He added that it was premature to make a decision on a crossover flight program with NASA right now.
Rogozin also claims that SpaceX ships have problems, complicating the participation.
“We have confidence in our ships… Major troubles are happening on Musk’s ship, including the failure of the sewer system… This is a life support system, this is no joke, this is people’s health. And if such problems continue, it is difficult for us to decide on a crossover flight for the time being,” he explained.