From Mosnews.com comes the story that Russian company Energia is developing a new reusable spacecraft – the Clipper, which will combine the best of the Soyuz and Buran spaceships. (The Buran, for those not in the know, was the Soviet equivalent to the Shuttle. It was test flown a couple of times, but the project was abandoned in the eighties).
The Clipper is designed with an eye to making a quick buck from rich people with lofty ambitions…
Energia is placing much emphasis on the opportunities for space tourism and travel. This module can carry up to four extra passengers, in addition to the two pilots, stated a senior designer with Energia. People have approached us with the desire to make a space trip even to have a spacewalk.
But it is also a pretty well specified ship, able to do some reasonable lifting, although not on the scale of the Shuttle…
Unlike past orbiting modules, the 10-meter-long Clipper is capable of maneuvering on its own in space. It is very light (14.5 tons), but is capable of lifting a 700 kilograms payload. Finally, it conforms to universal standards, which means that it could carry out missions with other spacecraft.
The article also questions why NASA isn’t working with Energia on this project, especially now it urgently seems to need a Shuttle replacement. President Bush – another rich man who sets himself high goals – has just announced his ambitious plans to return to the moon, then go onward and upward to Mars. But the cost is $1 trillion. The article doesn’t quote a price for the Clipper, but you can bet its going to be around a 20th the price of whatever NASA proposes. American taxpayers – demand value for your spacebucks!