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Russia strikes deal with NASA for first cosmonaut on SpaceX flight

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Russia strikes deal with NASA for first cosmonaut on SpaceX flight
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket breaks through the clouds as it carries Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 10. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Russia's only active female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, will make her first trip into space in fall 2022 as the first Russian to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, Russia's space agency announced Wednesday on Twitter.

Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Russia's Roscosmos agency, said his program has pledged a seat of a Russian Soyuz capsule to an American astronaut in return.

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Rogozin did not specify SpaceX in his statement, saying only "an American spacecraft." But SpaceX's Crew Dragon is the only American spacecraft certified to carry people.

The only alternative in development, Boeing Starliner, has no new launch date for its next test flight.

NASA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Rogozin's statement.

The United States paid Russia up to around $80 million per seat to fly astronauts to the International Space Station from 2011, when the shuttle was retired, to 2020.

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That's when SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule first flew astronauts to the space station, launching from Florida.

SpaceX since has launched 12 more astronauts to the space station on three missions.

NASA's Mark Vande Hei was the last U.S. occupant of a Russian Soyuz capsule, which was launched April 9.

NASA, SpaceX launch Crew-3 mission to ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA's third crew to the International Space Station at 9:03 p.m. November 10 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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