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NASA, Roscosmos sign agreement for space station flights

·2 min read

NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos signed an agreement Friday to integrate spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS).

Russian cosmonauts can fly on U.S.-made spacecraft and American astronauts will be able to ride on Russia's Soyuz.

"The agreement is in the interests of Russia and the United States and will promote the development of cooperation within the framework of the ISS program," Roscosmos said in a statement.

"Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks," NASA said.

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According to agency officials, the agreement ensures that there will always be at least one American and one Russian on board the orbiting laboratory.

While the space station's partners have sought to renew integrated crew flights for years, tensions have been raised amidst the war in Ukraine.

Shortly before the agreement was announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.

Yuri Borisov, a former deputy prime minister and deputy defense minister, was appointed in his place.

Rogozin has faced criticism over recent statements regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, making multiple threats to pull Russia out of the space station program this year.

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However, the move did not appear to have any connection to the crew swap and Rogozin was expected to be given a new position.

The first flights under the agreement will begin in September.

U.S. astronaut Frank Rubio will launch to the space station from Kazakhstan with Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin.

Departing from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, cosmonaut Anna Kikina will join two U.S. astronauts and a Japanese astronaut on a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station that same month.

Kikina, the only woman in Russia's active cosmonaut corps, will be the first Russian to fly SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule.

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She has been training for the mission at the Houston, Texas NASA astronaut headquarters.

Another crew swap is scheduled for spring 2023.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.