NASA's extended its deal with the Russian Federal Space Agency over transport to the International Space Station - but the cost of a ticket has gone up.
The $753 million modification to the deal covers crew transportation, rescue and related services from 2014 to June 2016. It includes training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue of long-duration missions for 12 ISS crew members.
NASA's planning to shift to an American-made commercial capability for crew transportation and rescue services to the station after the space shuttle fleet retures this year.
"The president's 2012 budget request boosts funding for our partnership with the commercial space industry and prioritizes our efforts to ensure that American astronauts and the cargo they need are transported by American companies rather than continuing to outsource this work to foreign governments," says NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
"This new approach in getting our crews and cargo into orbit will create good jobs and expand opportunities for our American economy. If we are to win the future and out build our competitors, it's essential that we make this program a success."
Under the new deal, station crew members can launch on Soyuz vehicles over a two-year period. Six people can be launched in calendar year 2014 and six more in 2015, returning to Earth in the spring of 2016 after a six-month stay aboard the station.
The Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and help dispose of trash.