A two-year, €50 million ($61 million) study into the viability of participating in development of Russia’s six-person Kliper transport vehicle will be proposed at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) council of ministers meeting in December. The programme would develop the vehicle’s mission and operational requirements and its system design and determine the level of ESA participation.

During the study a decision could be made at any time to abandon involvement in the Kliper. But if, after 18 months, ESA decides to proceed, a proposal would be made to its governing council that could mean an annual expenditure of €100 million during the six- to seven-year development phase.

The subsequent operational phase would also require significant ESA expenditure. “With that level of involvement, the concept would be that one or more of the seats [on the vehicle] would belong to us,” says Alan Thirkettle, head of development in ESA’s human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration directorate.

ESA is in talks aimed at bringing the Japanese on board, Thirkettle says. A joint European and Japanese team would work with the Russians. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is considering including involvement in Kliper within its long-term vision plan, to be submitted for approval by the end of this year.

Source: Flight International