NASA will be hitching rides on Russian rockets for at least three more years.
Last week, NASA announced the signing of a $424 million extension of its contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency, also known as Roscosmos, hiring the latter to transport U.S., Canadian, European, and Japanese astronauts to the International Space Station through 2016. The contract also extends a deal for Roscosmos to bring said astronauts back from the ISS through June 2017.
NASA hopes to bring U.S. domestic space transport back on line by 2017, with private contractors including Boeing (NYSE:BA), Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX all vying to provide a "space taxi" service to ISS for the USA. Until then, however, NASA must piggyback on Russian rockets and ride in Soyuz space capsules.
Its latest contract with Roscosmos fixes prices for astronaut training, preparation, and transport to and from the ISS for six astronauts at approximately $70.7 million a head.