Russians make Soyuz offer to NASA

by Chris Bergin

Roscosmos – the Russian Space Agency – have made an official offer to sell NASA one of their Soyuz spacecraft at a price of $65 million, while recommending to the Americans that it is used in compliment of the Space Shuttle.

The offer was announced by the head of Russia’s manned flight programs Alexie Krasnov – who also noted his ‘hope’ that NASA’s Shuttle fleet will resume ‘regular’ flights.

The deal also includes all elements required for the Russian ship, including launch services and a carrier rocket. However, the deal cannot currently be taken up by NASA, given US law which prohibits the purchase of certain equipment from the Russians and some other select countries.

Russia’s timing could be seen as linked with the recent announcement by NASA that the next launch of a Shuttle – STS-121 with Discovery – won’t be before March, 2006.

“We hope American Shuttles will resume regular flights and we are suggesting that our American partners use Soyuz craft as retrieving units for the ISS crew instead of as Shuttles,” Krasnov said.

The move also comes at a time where Russia’s commitments on American astronauts’ delivery to the International Space Station is becoming ever closer to a conclusion – just a month after Discovery is hoped will launch again – April 2006.

At which time two seats in the Soyuz would be given to Russian cosmonauts and one would go to either a space tourist or a European Space Agency astronaut.

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