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    Russia may build new shuttle spacecraft by 2015

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    MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's rocket and space corporation Energia may build a new-generation piloted spacecraft by 2015, the company president said on Tuesday.

    Energia has been developing a reusable manned spacecraft since 2000. It is designed to replace the Soyuz and Progress launch vehicles in making regular flights to the International Space Station and even the Moon and Mars.

    "Countries, such as the U.S., China, India and members of the European Space Agency (ESA) are actively working on the development of a manned spacecraft and we must follow the same path," said Vitaly Lapota, who is also Energia's chief designer.

    "We should be able to build the future Russian manned spacecraft not later than 2015," he said.

    Energia said last November it had developed six projects for new manned spacecraft, two of which will be submitted to Russia's space agency in the near future.

    It is proposed the craft will carry two professional astronauts and up to four passengers, compared to the Soyuz's three-member crews. Reliability of the craft and safety of its crew are among the main requirements for the future shuttle.

    Lapota also said the spacecraft would most likely have a pure lifting body design.

    In addition, the projects envisage innovations such as an orbital transfer vehicle and a cargo container with an increased payload capacity of 12 metric tons, as compared to the current two tons.

    Various sources estimate the cost of the Russian reusable spacecraft project, including construction, to total $1-3 billion.

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