Russia is developing a manned space shuttle of a radically new design capable of carrying six cosmonauts. The new spacecraft may replace Russia's current Soyuz space vehicles in 2010. This statement was made by Boris Sotnikov, a deputy head of the Energia space corporation's R&D center, in his exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.
"The new spacecraft, tentatively called Clipper, is designed to take crews and cargoes to orbital stations and, should the need arise, ensure emergency evacuation of cosmonauts and equipment back to Earth," he said.
According to Sotnikov, Clippers will be used for self-contained orbital flights lasting up to 10 days; it will also serve as a base for scientific experiments. In addition, the new spacecraft will have a capacity to carry as many as four "space tourists" (Soyuz can take only one "space tourist" on board).
The six-member crew of the new space shuttle will consist of two pilots and four cosmonauts (or passengers). In addition, the Clipper will be able to carry a cargo of up to 700 kg. The lift-off mass of the 10-meter-long shuttle will be 14.5 tons.
Clippers will be launched into orbit by Russia's Onega carrier rocket, a radically upgraded version of the Soyuz launch vehicle. It will be possible to launch the new space shuttle from all Russian space centers with Soyuz launch site facilities, that is from Baikonur and Plesetsk.
In case the joint EU-Russian project of utilizing the Kourou space center facilities develops successfully, Clippers will be able to lift off from the Russian rocket launching site currently under construction on the equatorial space center Kourou in French Guiana.