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18 Sep, 2022 16:14

First Russia-US seat-sharing spaceflight looms

A NASA delegation has arrived at Baikonur cosmodrome ahead of the first flight under the program
First Russia-US seat-sharing spaceflight looms

A NASA team has arrived at the Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Sunday. The visit comes ahead of the upcoming flight to the International Space Station (ISS), involving two cosmonauts and US astronaut Frank Rubio, scheduled for Wednesday.

“The US delegation arrived in Baikonur to participate in the preparations of the first seat-sharing flight on the Soyuz spacecraft – these are NASA representatives and relatives of astronaut Frank Rubio,” Roscosmos said in a statement.

The delegation has already taken part in the rollout of a Soyuz-2.1a spacecraft onto the cosmodrome’s launch pad. The rocket is set to blast off for the ISS on Wednesday, carrying Rubio, as well as Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmirty Petelin.

The upcoming flight is the first under the seat-sharing program, agreed by Moscow and Washington earlier this year despite ever-worsening ties between the two nations, further complicated by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The landmark seat-sharing deal was reached in July, coinciding with the departure of Russia’s long-time space boss Dmitry Rogozin, who was replaced by Yury Borisov in a government reshuffle.

The second flight under the seat-sharing program is expected to take place later this autumn, involving a US Crew Dragon spacecraft. The flight is expected to involve Anna Kikina, the only woman on Russia’s active cosmonaut roster.