MOSCOW, August 16 (RIA Novosti) - The first unmanned flight of Russia's Clipper space shuttle has been set for 2011, and the first manned flight has been scheduled for 2012, a senior official from Russia's leading space company told the Delovoy Vtornik (Business Tuesday) weekly.
Nikolai Bryukhanov, the deputy designer general of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, said that the Clipper would replace the Soyuz and the Buran spacecraft to become Russia's main craft for the coming decades.
The Clipper has several advantages because it is a shuttle craft with improved aerodynamics, which allows the craft to cut regular G-forces by two to two and a half times, and irregular G-forces by five times.
The craft is built using the "wing" model. The improved aerodynamics will allow the craft to maneuver at the controlled re-entry stage and increase the precision of the landing.
The Clipper will be able to deliver a six-man crew to the International Space Station (ISS), which will drastically change the situation with the station, Bryukhanov said. At present the main safety rule for the station's operation is that a three-men crew can be evacuated in an emergency by a Soyuz spacecraft. With a Clipper docked at the station, the permanent ISS crew can be increased by two to three times.
"We will certainly spend more money on the new craft's construction, but we will be able to use it for about 25 missions with increased cargo capacity and double the crew," Bryukhanov said. "It will be obviously less expensive than the current program."
According to the expert, Russia can build the Clipper on its own using domestic technologies while it is still possible. However, the Federal Space Agency believes it will be more effective and strategically important for Russia to involve other countries in the project, the weekly said.