Russia will charge the United States to deliver astronauts and cargo to the international space station starting next year, the head of the Federal Space Agency said Wednesday.
Although Russia and the United States agreed to split the costs of sending crew members and material to the space station, only Russian spacecraft have been used since last year's space shuttle disaster. Space officials say that by carrying the sole burden, Russia has fulfilled its end of the agreement.
"If the Americans want to fly Soyuz (spacecraft) in 2005, they will have to compensate us the costs," space agency head Anatoly Perminov said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
NASA aims to resume shuttle flights next spring, but efforts to enhance their safety may cause delays.
Last year, Russian space officials said that a Progress supply ship flight cost about $22 million and a Soyuz crew capsule was slightly more expensive. At least two Soyuz ships and three Progress ships are needed each year to maintain the station and rotate its crews.
The European Space Agency is also working on a cargo ship to supplement the U.S. and Russian vessels that fly to the space station. That craft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, is due to begin operation next year. This week's spacewalk at the space station was aimed at setting up equipment in preparation for receiving the European craft.