June 22, 2015 / 9:56 PM / 4 years ago

Kazakh cosmonaut to replace singer Sarah Brightman for space flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A rookie Kazakh cosmonaut will take over British singer Sarah Brightman’s seat on a Russian Soyuz capsule heading to the International Space Station in September, officials said on Monday.

In addition, a Japanese businessman training as Brightman’s backup signed a contract to fly to the orbital outpost when another Soyuz seat opens up in the next two- to four years, said Space Adventures, a U.S.-based travel agency that has brokered eight privately paid flights to the station.

The station, a $100 billion research outpost owned by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth. It is permanently staffed by rotating crews of six astronauts and cosmonauts.

Last month, Brightman, 54, pulled out of training for a 10-day taxi flight, citing personal family reasons. The trip, slated to begin on Sept. 1, would have cost Brightman about $52 million, Space Adventures President Tom Shelley said last year.

Replacing Brightman will be Kazakhstani cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov, the Russian news service Tass reported.

Aimbetov will be part of a three-man Soyuz crew needed to ferry home station commander Gennady Padalka, and deliver his replacement, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov.

Two other station crew members, NASA’s Scott Kelly and the Russian space agency’s Mikhail Kornienko, are staying aboard for the station’s first year-long increment.

Aimbetov and Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen will launch with Volkov and return to Earth about 10 days later with Padalka.

Japanese businessman Satoshi Takamatsu, who arrived at Russia’s Star City in January, along with Brightman, for training, will step down as a backup crew member, with an eye toward making a flight in the next two- to four years, said Space Adventures spokeswoman Stacey Tearne.

Terms of the contract for Takamatsu’s flight were not disclosed.

Brightman, who first won fame as the female lead in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, was to have become the eighth paying tourist to visit the station. The last non-astronaut to make the trip was Cirque du Soleil founder and chief executive Guy Laliberte in September 2009. Microsoft co-founder Charles Simonyi has made the trip twice.

NASA is working with privately owned Space Exploration Technologies and with Boeing on commercial passenger U.S. spaceships slated to begin flying in 2017.

Irene Klotz; Editing by Christian Plumb

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