Russia will finalize in August 2010 the design of a new booster rocket for a manned spacecraft it is planning to launch in 2017, a design bureau chief said on Tuesday.
"The work will end in August," Sergei Tkachenko of the Samara-based Progress design bureau said.
Russia's Energia space corporation, Progress and the Makeyev missile design facility are designing the Rus-M booster rocket to launch a new-generation manned spacecraft from the Vostochny space center currently under construction in the country's Far East.
Last October marked the 45th anniversary of the first flight of the Voskhod spacecraft, which carried three cosmonauts. Russia has since been struggling to increase the capacity of its manned spacecraft.
Since the flight of the world's first cosmonaut, Yury Gagarin, in 1961, Russia has used the R-7-derived space boosters to deliver its manned spacecraft into orbit. The United States has meanwhile designed four booster rockets.
The Rus-M draft model was first presented at a MAKS air show in Moscow last summer.
The launch vehicle is facing tough safety requirements, and will have to guarantee a takeoff or ensure a continuous flight or an ejection with a safe landing even with one of its engines out of action.
A family of four Rus-M booster rockets with a capacity of 16 to 60 metric tons could compete with another Russian booster rocket, Angara, that has yet to be tested, and is a potential rival to France's Ariane 5 launch systems and the U.S. crew launch vehicle Ares I.
Russia is planning to test launch the new rocket in 2015, and send manned spacecraft with crews of up to six people into low earth orbits and up to four cosmonauts at a time on Lunar missions from 2018.
Energia has already received 600 million rubles ($19.9 mln at the current exchange rate) of budget funds for the Rus-M project. However, experts doubt if an appropriate launch pad would be built at Vostochny by 2015.
MOSCOW, January 26 (RIA Novosti)