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The Russian space corporation Energia is going to build Kliper, a new reusable spacecraft that should replace the Soyuz spacecraft which has been in service for the last 30 years. Funding is still to be allocated to get this R&D project off the ground. Though the financing of the project is to be finalized, Yuri Koptev, Director General of Rosaviakosmas, sounded apparently pleased when speaking about the advanced research program.

Soon after the U.S. President George W. Bush had unveiled highly ambitious plans of space exploration, some Russian design companies engaged in space equipment research and development were quick to claim that they had more advanced designs sitting in their drawing boards. The statements purported that the Russians were capable of building a new spacecraft to carry out a manned space mission to Mars before the Americans. The U.S. President said that their space shuttle would be decommissioned in 2014 whereas our Kliper might be reportedly put into operation by 2010, provided that funding is taken care of.

Boris Sotnikov, senior designer of the new Russian spacecraft, has revealed a few technical specifications of ?Kliper? in his interview to Izvestia. According to him, the spacecraft is a combination of the best characteristics featured in the reliable Soyuz spacecraft and the Buran, a Russian-built space shuttle that failed to join the Russian space fleet. Its weight is 14.5 tons, lighter than that of the Buran?s (105 tons), though its thermal protection and navigation systems are built on the basis of equipment used in the Buran project. Unlike the Soyuz, Kliper is capable of maneuvering while in orbit. It?s designed to carry a crew of six and a 700 kilos payload. The Soyuz is capable of carrying 2 crewmembers and 200 kilos of payload. It?s more comfortable and safer. It can be used for a wide variety of purposes, from crew ferrying to rescue operations at a orbital space station to a manned space mission to Mars. The new spacecraft is designed to carry out an independent space mission for 10 days; after the docking it will able to last up to one year in space. In line with the latest trends, though as questionable as they may seem, Kliper could be potentially used for the space tourism. A crew of just 2 crewmembers is thought to be quite capable of handling the controls in a cockpit.

Kliper is planned to be deployed into orbit by a Russian-built booster rocket code-named Onega that is a deeply modernized version of the Soyuz. The new spacecraft could be launched from any Russian space port equipped with a launch pad suitable for the Soyuz including the Baikonur and Plesetsk space ports. It could be also launched from the Courou space port in French Guiana where the Russian launch pad is currently under construction.


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