Russia will probably limit number of cosmonauts on ISS in 2017 from three to two.
According to TASS news agency, Russia is going to put limit on number of cosmonauts remaining on International Space Station in following years. TASS is quoting part of the interview given to Russian Izviestia, by Sergei Krikalev, who is director of the manned space programs in Roscosmos:
“Plans to reduce the crew stem from the fact that less cargo ships are sent to the ISS and from the necessity to boost the efficiency of the program,”
It means, that probably 2016 is last year when ISS is crewed with six persons. Roscosmos is clearly looking for possibilities to reduce costs of ISS-decreasing number of Russian personnel for one person gives opportunity to reduce number of supplies and equipment send inside Progress spacecraft what will be serious relief for stretched budget. It also means that one of the places inside Soyuz spacecrafts will be free and could be offered for commercial purposes. It is worth to mention, that for the moment Roscosmos charged NASA to $424 million in 2015 for delivering American astronauts inside Soyuz. According to different Russian news agency Novosti, Roscosmos would like to offer free place on ISS for countries associated in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Of course Russian plans need to be accepted with NASA, ESA and other agencies and organizations cooperating under ISS. But it is more than possible, that NASA will not see the problem in such solution; next generation spacecrafts planned to deliver American astronauts to ISS (Dragon 2 and CST-100) are able to deliver 4 astronauts and will start regular flights in 2018. It will help in keeping present number of crew members in ISS and even in case of starting cooperation with new countries, it is still possible to extend number of personnel remaining inside Station to seven.
On picture above: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov during EVA.