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    MOSCOW, February 22, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Kovalev) - Russia is developing a principally new piloted reusable spaceship, Boris Sotnikov, deputy head of the R&D center for designing and engineering work of Energia space corporation, said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.

    "The ship we are designing under the working name Clipper is meant to bring crews and cargoes to orbital stations and, if necessary, to urgently evacuate the astronauts and equipment back to Earth," he said.

    "The corporation has been working on Clipper since 2000, the craft has an all-body shaped as an iron," Sotnikov said. "The ship will dock with a carrier rocket not from the side, as the American shuttle, but from the above, as its predecessor Soyuz", he added.

    According to the expert, the Clipper designers have used all the scientific and practical experience accumulated during the many years of exploiting the Soyuz ships, but the new spacecraft has a number of principal differences. "It is a reusable ship, it can admit up to seven people of crew and bring up to 700 kg of cargo to the orbit," Sotnikov emphasized.

    Moreover, the ship can remain in an autonomous flight for 10 days and in case of an emergency on the International Space Station, it will evacuate the crew to Earth with more comfort than the Soyuz capsule.

    Energiya's news development can be successfully used for inter-planet flights as well. "We are making Clipper keeping in mind future Moon and Mars flights," Sotnikov said. "The crew will have to fly to the Mars and back on an international station, but to descend to Earth from the near-earth orbit they will need the Clipper", he explained.

    The new shuttle can also be used to take tourists to space. "Some wealthy citizens, especially from the Middle East, are now showing increased interest not only in a one-week flight to the International Space Station, but also in an autonomous space journey," Sotnikov pointed out.

    With the financing being sufficient, the Clipper may be ready to fly as soon as in 2010, he said.

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