A lighter version of the Kliper six-crew reusable spacecraft is under consideration, say Russian and European sources.
The new variant would not have the accommodation module previously seen attached to the capsule. Instead, on reaching orbit, it would dock with a proposed space tug, the Parom, operating from the International Space Station (ISS).
The lighter Kliper could be launched on a booster smaller than the proposed Soyuz-3. This may make it easier to launch from French Guiana, an option that has been discussed at the highest political levels (Flight International, 9-15 August). “We are aware of the evolution,” says the European Space Agency. “The second half of the configuration will stay on orbit and act as a space tug, collecting the manned spacecraft and taking it to the ISS and, at the end of the mission, taking it back down to a re-entry de-orbit altitude.”
Proposed by Moscow-based Kliper developer Energia, the Parom space tug would enable use of an unmanned version of the spacecraft that carries about 25t of cargo. Like the manned version, the cargo variant would be towed to and from the ISS.
ESA is interested in the Parom because it has a “lot of features that lend themselves to potential use for ATV [automated transfer vehicle] technology and hardware”. ESA’s ATV is an unmanned cargo carrier to be launched by Ariane 5.
ESA is to hold a meeting of potential Kliper participants during its human spaceflight programme board meeting, which will be part of the agency’s annual programme assessment this year to be held in Paris on 15-17 November.