Russia's NPO Molniya space design bureau is designing a future hypersonic pilotless booster designated Hammer, capable of putting satellites into orbit, according to documents obtained by RIA Novosti.
"The first stage of the project has been designed for the internal and external configuration of the Hammer hypersonic pilotless booster. It will be capable of carrying small satellites of up to 800 kg into orbits from 200-500 km," the documents say.
The NPO Molniya document says the craft got the name Hammer because "the nose section, seen from above, looks like a hammerhead shark."
The new craft is based on existing and emerging technology, the designers' documents say, including the AL-31F turbofan engines used in the Su-27 series of fighter aircraft.
The orbital stage is likely to be an 18-ton two-stage rocket booster powered by an engine based the RD-0124 series rocket motor.
The second-stage will be based on a single-chamber engine based on the RD-0124.
The 74-ton craft will climb to altitude, carry out a special maneuver in which the orbital section with its satellite will separate, and then the main craft will return to its airbase.
Russia is showing increased interest in hypersonic aircraft development, which has both civil and military applications.
In the last six months, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has repeatedly called for Russia to gain the lead lost to the United States in hypersonic aeronautics. Earlier this week, he repeated a call for hypersonic technology to be used in development of a new bomber for the Russian Air Force.
The United States has already test-flown the Waverider pilotless test aircraft at hypersonic speeds, but the most recent test failed when the aircraft lost a tail fin and crashed in the sea.
NPO Molniya is one of Russia's largest spacecraft production enterprises, and was involved in the Buran space shuttle program in the Soviet era. It was previously involved in guided weapons projects.