Soyuz replacement may be developed by new grouping of companies in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine

Russia's Kliper six-crew reusable spacecraft could be developed by a consortium of former Soviet countries following a deal to merge their space companies.

Proposed by Russia's Energia as a replacement for the three-crew Soyuz, the 14,500kg (31,900lb) Kliper would carry a payload of up to 700kg, plus personnel. Already offered to the European Space Agency (Flight International, 6-12 July), the vehicle is now part of Russia's 2005-15 space programme with a development budget of $120 million.

"It is planned to launch Kliper from the Plesetsk cosmodrome on the carrier rocket Onega, which is a modified Soyuz [launch vehicle]," says Energia first vice-president Nikolai Zelenshchikov. Later, Kliper could be launched from other sites, including ESA's Kourou facility in French Guiana. Kliper could also be launched by Russia's yet-to-be-built Angara and Ukraine's Zenit, says Nikolai Moiseyev, deputy director of Russia's Federal Space Agency.

Development is planned in three stages, with experimental launches of an unmanned version of Kliper by 2008 and manned launches from 2009 to 2013. The third stage would involve "operational improvements". Energia says the first hull has already been built.

Kliper will be developed by a new space corporation formed by the merger of companies in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. The decision was taken at a meeting in Kazakh capital Astana under the auspices of the Common Economic Space, a free trade arrangement the four countries are creating. Plans to co-ordinate and merge research and production will be presented at the next meeting in December.

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma says his country's Yuzhnoye design bureau could join the new space corporation, Kazakhstan could provide test ranges for Kliper launches and Belarus could provide optics technology.



Source: Flight International