Tim Furniss/PARIS

A European Space Agency (ESA) Council of Ministers meeting in the middle of 1998 is to decide whether to go ahead with the development of a Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV) capsule or a new proposal of a lifting-body Crew Rescue Vehicle (CRV), for use in the International Space Station (ISS) project.

Aerospatiale, Alenia and MAN Technologies are already working on the Ariane 5-launched CTV craft, which would deliver a crew of four, plus 200kg of equipment, to the ISS and return to Earth with a crew. The new CRV design has evolved through ESA's work with NASA for a Phase 2 emergency crew-return vehicle to replace the Russian two-Soyuz-craft system to be deployed initially on the ISS.

NASA is already working on an X-38 lifting body for potential use as the CRV, and ESA hopes that it can co-operate in the project using experience gained from its now-cancelled Hermes spaceplane development and the Ariane 5 launcher system.

Although it is proposed by NASA that the CRV would be launched unmanned on the Space Shuttle, ESA also sees the opportunity to launch it unmanned on the Ariane 5.

ESA may also develop an uprated version of the vehicle which could provide it with an independent manned transportation system.

The CRV would have to be able to return a maximum of six crew from the ISS in an emergency. NASA's X-38 test vehicle is being flown from this month (Flight International, 18-24 June).

Source: Flight International