GREENBELT, Md., March 14 (UPI) -- NASA says it has signed a $753 million agreement with the Russian space agency Roscosmos for 12 round trips for astronauts to the International Space Station.
The arrangement will let NASA fly a dozen U.S. or partner agency astronauts on Russia's venerable Soyuz spacecraft between 2014 and 2015 at a cost of about $62.7 million per seat, SPACE.com reported Monday. That's up from the $55.8 million per seat NASA paid for six upcoming round trips to the ISS in 2013 and 2014.
"It's an 8.5 percent annual increase," NASA spokesman Josh Bluck said of the overall increase. "The increase covers just the general inflation rate in Russia for the cost of processing and preparation."
The agreement comes during a major transition for NASA as it prepares to retire its space shuttle fleet after 30 years of missions. Once the shuttles are in museums, NASA will utilize commercially built spacecraft developed by private companies to deliver crews and cargo to the ISS.
The first flights for the commercial craft are anticipated around 2015, four years after the last shuttle mission.
"We are still anticipating having the availability of domestic commercial crew transportation by the middle of the decade," Bluck said.