NASA is planning to buy an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft through Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space, according two people familiar with the plans. The seat is a backup for NASA in case its upcoming ride with SpaceX runs into technical problems, and suggests the agency is proceeding cautiously.
The agency announced Tuesday it was weighing options to procure a Soyuz seat as a safety net to keep the International Space Station staffed with US astronauts. It’s the second time NASA has procured a Russian seat through a US-based company, following a deal with Boeing in 2017 for four Soyuz seats. This time, the deal is with Axiom, a startup that arranges private astronaut rides to space.
The terms of the agreement for the astronaut seat are still being negotiated, according to the two people, who spoke the The Verge under the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
The space agency relied on Russia to provide rides to the space station when the U.S. shuttle program retired in 2011. But last year, SpaceX launched its first crew of US astronauts to space under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
An Axiom spokesman declined to comment.
“A U.S. company reached out to NASA with a proposal that could meet NASA’s needs,” the agency said a statement to The Verge. “However, we are unable to share the name of the company as NASA has not entered into any agreement regarding the seat and that information is procurement sensitive.”
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