April 7, 2009

Russian Space Officials Choose Contractor For Soyuz Successor

The federal space agency, Roscosmos, chose RSC Energia on Monday to develop its next-generation Russian manned spacecraft, BBC News reported.

The new spacecraft will be able to hold a six-cosmonaut crew in low-Earth orbit.

The three-seat Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four decades, will be retired once the new ship is constructed.

Energia also built the first Soyuz capsules in the late 1960s. The new ship will also have a variant for missions to the Moon.

It is currently only known by the Russian abbreviation PPTS and the space agency hopes they will be put into orbit before the end of the next decade.

The version of the ship that will orbit the Earth is estimated to weigh in at around 12 tons and can hold a crew of six, along with no less than 1,100 pounds of cargo.

The ships "lunar cousin" would weigh 16.5 tons, with room for four crewmembers and would be able to deliver and bring back around 100 pounds of cargo.

The space agency said an unmanned cargo version of the vehicle would be required to carry no less than 2 tons to Earth orbit, and return at least 1,100 pounds back to Earth.

The United States is in the process of developing its own next-generation spacecraft, known as Orion.

The $23 million initial feasibility study runs until June next year.

Russia and Europe had been looking into the possibility of developing a vehicle together, but neither could agree on the details.

While still using some Russian technology, Europe will focus on pursuing the possibility of upgrading its robotic ATV space freighter to a manned ship.

During their ministerial meeting in The Hague last November, European member states approved a limited development fund for the space project.


On the Net: