The Russian space agency Roscosmos plans to send Cosmonaut Anna Kikina to space on a SpaceX Dragon Capsule next September.
The US and Russia have long been both competitors and partners in space. While the space race saw the two countries at odds, the International Space Station has been a long-term project built off the partnership of the nations.
For many years NASA and Roscosmos would trade seats between the US Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz vehicles. This arrangement ensured there would always be an Astronaut and a Cosmonaut on the station.
The end of the Space Shuttle program meant the US could no longer offer seats to cosmonauts, and NASA was stuck sending US astronauts to space on the Soyuz capsule.
Commercial Crew Program
Thanks to the work of the Commercial Crew Program, the US can send people to space once again. SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon capsule first launched crew to space during the Demo-2 launch last year.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule is also a part of this program, and once online it will be used alongside SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to shuttle astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory.
NASA hoped once these commercial spacecraft came online the two countries could return to trading seats between countries. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Roscosmos, has been critical of the commercial spacecraft.
The trampoline to space
Back in 2014, in the early days of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Rogozin said on Twitter, “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”
This led Elon Musk to say, following the success of the Demo-2 mission, “The trampoline is working!”
Even after that first success, some questions remained, and Roscosmos seems hesitant to send cosmonauts on a Dragon capsule.
The agency seemed especially hesitant following the delayed parachute opening during Crew-2’s splashdown.
Cosmonaut Anna Kikina to fly on Dragon capsule
In a post on the Roscosmos website, the agency said (translated from Russian to English via Google Translate):
Earlier, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos State Corporation, said that it was decided to send a female cosmonaut of the Russian Federation Anna Kikina to the International Space Station on an American ship in September 2022. According to the head of Roscosmos, the State Corporation expects it to become a goodwill ambassador.
“Our beauty, the cosmonaut will be the first to implement the cross-flight program,” he added.
At the moment, the necessary documents for the implementation of this decision are being agreed upon.
Kikina commented on the proposed flight:
“I learned recently about my flight on an American ship from the management and was pleasantly surprised by this proposal. I am very good at the opportunity to carry out my first space flight under the exchange program,” she said.
Notably, the post fails to mention anything about SpaceX or the Dragon capsule, instead referring to it only as an “American ship,” but given that the Dragon capsule is the only US orbital and operational crewed spacecraft, it is clear which one the agency was referring to.
The final details are being agreed upon, but the mission will be NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission, set to launch in September 2022 from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.