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Russia charges NASA astronauts $8M more per seat on Soyuz spacecraft

Russia is raising the price of a seat on the Soyuz space capsule for NASA astronauts who need to travel to the International Space Station.

Soyuz tma 08m 29 03 2013Enlarge
The Soyuz TMA-08M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 29, 2013. Five hours and 45 minutes later, the capsule was at the International Space Station. (NASA/Carla Cioffi/Getty Images)

Russia is raising the price of a seat on the Soyuz space capsule for NASA astronauts who need to travel to the International Space Station, Space.com reported.

Seats will now cost $70.7 million apiece, or $8 million more than the previous going rate.

NASA announced today that it has signed a $424 million deal with Russian rocket-operator Roscosmos that buys US astronauts six seats on Soyuz flights through early 2017.

The US space agency has little choice but to pay higher prices to ride Russia’s rockets, since no private companies have yet developed commercial spacecraft that can transport passengers to the ISS. NASA retired its own space shuttle fleet in July 2011.

NASA Director Charles Bolden blamed Congress for the slow development of private alternatives to Russian spacecraft.

In a post on his NASA blog, Bolden said the US had hoped to encourage US companies to develop spacecraft that could fly to the ISS by 2015 by offering financial support through its Commercial Crew Program.

"Because the funding for the president's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017," he wrote. "Even this delayed availability will be in question if Congress does not fully support the President's fiscal year 2014 request for our Commercial Crew Program, forcing us once again to extend our contract with the Russians.”

The Obama administration has requested $821 million for the program in next year’s budget.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130430/russia-charges-nasa-astronauts-8m-more-seat-soyu