Even with tensions rocketing upward over the Ukraine war, Russia and the U.S. are set to resume joint flights to the International Space Station on aircraft from both countries. Upcoming space flights will feature multinational crews as part of a new agreement between NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos.
In a statement, NASA spokesman Josh Finch wrote that flying with integrated crews “protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues,” or any emergencies requiring an early return to Earth, according to Ars Technica.
On Sept. 21, American astronaut Frank Rubio will launch to the ISS with cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin from the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Another flight, also launching in September, will include American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina. The flight will be using the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle and will be the first time a cosmonaut has flown to space on an American vehicle that isn’t the space shuttle.
Next spring, there will be two more integrated flights. American astronaut Loral O’Hara will join cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub on a Russian spacecraft, while cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev will join American astronauts Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg on an American spacecraft.
The new agreement helps cement the Russo-American cooperation that helped to establish the International Space Station in 1998. For 9 years after the space shuttle was scuttled in 2011, American flights to the station all launched on Russian spacecraft out of Baikonur Cosmodrome.