Space: Europeans Build A Spaceship

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June 4,2008: Russia and the European Space Agency are going to collaborate in building manned and unmanned spacecraft for orbital work, serving the International Space Station, and even possible trips to the moon. The new craft will replace the existing Soyuz and Progress systems. The Progress is actually a variant of the Soyuz, and both weigh about seven tons. These two space vehicles are used one time only, and were designed in the 1960s. The Progress can deliver 2.7 tons of cargo (the Space Shuttle capacity was about 15 tons). The proposed new Russian/European craft is based on the current European "Jules Verne" ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) cargo module. This is a 20 ton vehicle, which can carry 8 tons of cargo. The ATV had its first flight three months ago, and will do the same work as the smaller, and older, Russian Progress vehicle. The current ATV is not equipped to return material from space (where is will mainly be used to supply the International Space Station.) A reusable ATV would cost about a billion dollars to design, and one that could carry passengers, a few billion more.

The U.S. is developing a reusable capsule, the 25 ton Orion, that can carry up to six personnel, or up to 3.5 tons of cargo (six tons in s special cargo version). The Orion can land, via parachute and airbags, anywhere, and be refurbished for up to ten trips. However, the Orion won't be ready for use until 2015.

Currently, Russia builds two Soyuz and four Progress capsules a year. For the 4-5 year period when there is no Shuttle or Orion, Russia will build four Soyuz and seven Progress capsules a year. Russian/European ATV craft will weigh 20 tons and be available in about ten years,

The Orion is based on the American Apollo space capsule of the 1960s, which was a contemporary of the Soyuz. The three remaining U.S. Space Shuttles will be retired in two years, leaving it to Russia to provide transportation to and from the International Space Station until Orion arrives to help out.

 


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