Russia back into space tourism

Roscosmos is planning to send two space tourists to the ISS in 2023 and let one of them perform a spacewalk

Russia back into space tourism
Photo: NASA

Russia’s monopoly on getting astronauts to the International Space Station seems to be over soon, and the country’s space agency is turning its face to private tourists — and even going to perform a first private spacewalk ever.

Russia is getting back into the space tourism business after a decade-long break, says The Verge. Russia’s State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos) is going to send two tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023 via the country’s Soyuz spacecraft. One of these tourists will also perform a spacewalk with an experienced Russian cosmonaut.

Roscosmos is going to relaunch tourism in partnership with US company Space Adventures, which arranges commercial spaceflights for private customers. The news is separate from last year’s agreement between the two companies to fly two tourists to the space station in 2021. Roscosmos and Space Adventures have already worked together to send seven space tourists to the ISS on separate Soyuz trips. The last tourist was Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté, who travelled to the ISS in September 2009. Later, Roscosmos focused on helping NASA astronauts get to and from the space station, as Soyuz became the only means of getting people to the ISS after the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle in 2011. According to The Verge, NASA paid around $80 million per seat on Soyuz.

Launch of Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome, April 2016. Photo: kremlin.ru

However, the monopoly seems to be over now. On 30 May, SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to the ISS via its Falcon 9 rocket and new Crew Dragon capsule. The American company plans to conduct regular passenger flights. Boeing is also developing a new crew capsule called CST-100 Starliner to take NASA astronauts to and from the station. NASA, which is getting less dependent on Soyuz, has bought fewer and fewer seats on the Russian spacecraft.

None of the few space tourists has spacewalked before. According to Space Adventures, “accepted and secured candidates will be required to complete specialised training and additional simulations” to prepare. It may be interesting to see what kind of training it will be and what the tourist will be doing when he is out in space. There is no information on how much such a trip will cost.

“A private citizen completing a spacewalk would be another huge step forward in private spaceflight,” Chairman and CEO of Space Adventures Eric Anderson said in a statement. “We appreciate the chance to celebrate two decades of orbital space tourism with our Russian partners by opening up another first-ever experience.”

By Anna Litvina