Russian cosmonaut will fly to space station with SpaceX this fall

Officially assigned to the Crew-5 mission is Anna Kikina.

It's official: Russian cosmonauts will soon begin traveling to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX aircraft (ISS).

As of Wednesday (July 15), NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, have agreed to swap seats on spacecraft going to and from the orbiting lab. As they have done several times before, NASA astronauts will travel in Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and for the first time, cosmonauts will board privately owned American vehicles like SpaceX's Dragon capsule.

Anna Kikina, a pioneering cosmonaut, will embark on SpaceX's Crew-5 mission; this plan has been in the works for some time and has finally been confirmed. NASA's Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Koichi Wakata will be her crewmates on that voyage, which is expected to launch in September, according to a statement sent by NASA officials today.

Andrei Fedyaev, a cosmonaut, will fly on SpaceX's Crew-6, which is scheduled to take off in the spring of 2019. According to NASA sources, Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg will also be on that trip. (The identity of the fourth crew member is still a secret.)

In turn, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will embark on a voyage to the ISS aboard the three-person Soyuz alongside cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin on September 21. Additionally, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub will be Loral O'Hara's crewmates on a Soyuz mission in the spring of 2023.

According to the NASA statement delivered through email, "flying integrated crews guarantees that there are suitably trained crew members on board the station for necessary maintenance and spacewalks." It also guards against unforeseen events like a fault with any crew spacecraft, major crew medical problems, or an incident onboard the station that necessitates a crew and the vehicle to which they are assigned to return to Earth earlier than expected.

Following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has severed ties with several of its space alliances. For instance, Russian-built Soyuz rockets are no longer available from launch service provider Arianespace in France, and Russian-built rocket engines are no longer offered to American enterprises. But as it has been since the start of the mission, Russia remains a crucial component of the ISS.

But that doesn't mean the continuing invasion of Ukraine hasn't had an effect on the space station and how it runs. For instance, NASA and other program partners criticized cosmonauts earlier this month for disseminating anti-Ukraine propaganda from the International Space Station (ISS).

Additionally, as reported by SpaceNews, recently ousted Roscosmos chairman Dmitry Rogozin claimed that he had told cosmonauts on the International Space Station to stop using a European robotic arm that is a component of Russia's Nauka module (opens in new tab). That order was reportedly made in response for Europe's choice to break off contact with Russia during its mission to search for life on Mars.

The non-American passengers on a SpaceX trip to the ISS will not include Kikina and Wakata for the first time. At least one foreign crew member was present on each of the company's first four contractual flights to the orbiting lab for NASA.