Dates for the highest-profile collaborations between the European Space Agency and Russia's Federal Space Agency (FSA) were announced at the Moscow air show.

FSA head Anatoly Perminov said the first industrial meeting for the agencies' joint manned spacecraft project, the Crew Space Transportation System (CSTS), will take place between Moscow-based Energia and representatives of a western European aerospace consortium on 3 September. This is for the preparatory phase leading to a decision on whether to proceed into development at the ESA ministerial meeting in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, ESA director-general Jean Jacques Dordain said the inaugural launch of the Samara-built and Starsem-operatedSoyuz-2 rocket from ESA's spaceport in French Guiana will take place in March or April 2009. The rocket was originally scheduled to fly from the Sinnamary launch complex from this year.

The CSTS meeting will be the first since Nikolai Nikolaevich Sevastianov was ousted as Energia's president and designer-general at a special shareholders meeting on 31 July. He was replaced by satellite designer Vitaly Alexandrovich Lapota.

"There have been ongoing meetings, regularly for co-ordination [of CSTS], but this is the first meeting between Energia and a joint European consortium of all the major players," says ESA's Moscow mission. The consortium includes EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.

ESA and FSA have been discussing a joint manned programme for years with various studies of possible vehicle designs including the now-cancelled Russian Kliper project. In 2006 the project was referred to as the Advanced Crew Transportation System and then in early 2007 it became CSTS.

Source: Flight International