India explores Russian help for new manned spacecraft

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India and Russia may collaborate to develop a reusable manned spacecraft - if talks expected to start early this year bear fruit.

Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Roskosmos space agency, says Energia Rocket and Space Corporation - best known as a designer of heavy lift vehicles - would be the Russian focal point for any joint project.

Last November the two countries sealed a 10-year deal to jointly develop and launch a robotic Moon rover mission during 2011-12, to follow India's Chandrayaan-I probe which is scheduled to launch this April. For Chandrayaan-II, aimed at studying lunar mineral resources, Russia will provide a new generation, 400kg (880lb) Lunokhod unmanned rover and India a flight module and launch support.

Earlier collaboration included assistance from the former Soviet Union to develop and launch India's first satellite, Aryabhata, in April 1975. India is a partner in Russia's Glonass satellite navigation system and has been granted access to the defence segment of this spacecraft constellation.

India's three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle is expected to launch two Glonass-K satellites before the end of this decade.