NASA buys Russian space rides from Boeing

Image: Soyuz docking
An upgraded Soyuz spacecraft nears the International Space Station for docking. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has agreed to purchase at least two trips to and from the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, from an unlikely ticket-seller: the Boeing Co.

The arrangement follows through on a convoluted plan laid out back in January, and provides a cushion for the space agency in case Boeing and SpaceX can’t provide space taxis for NASA’s use by 2019.

Ever since the shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011, NASA has been buying trips from the Russians at escalating prices. The latest purchase, for seats on Soyuz craft to be launched in 2018, amounted to $82 million per seat.

The per-seat price for the Boeing buy will be $74.7 million.

Boeing picked up the rights to the additional Soyuz seats as part of the settlement for a $320 million-plus debt owed by Russia’s Energia space company. Those debts were incurred while Energia subsidiaries were working with Boeing on the Sea Launch joint venture. (Boeing is no longer part of that venture.)

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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