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Russia completes design for next-gen lunar spacecraft

Posted in Science on 28th Dec, 2012 02:15 AM by AlexMuller

Russia has been sending Soyuz capsules into space since the late 1960s. As spaceships go, they're simple, cheap, and dead nuts reliable, but the design is old enough that taking a Soyuz capsule much beyond orbit isn't really an option. Russia has finalized the design for a new spacecraft that will be able to take humans all the way to the Moon.


The new capsule is called the "Prospective Piloted Transport System," or PPTS. More officially, it's known as the "New Generation Piloted Transport Ship," or PTK NP, or, if you want to get really fancy about things, the Pilotiruemyi Transportny Korabl Novogo Pokoleniya. The contract to design the PPTS was awarded to RKK Energia (which has been making Soyuz) back in 2009, and it sounds like the PPTS prototype will be ready for its first flight quite soon:


"We have completed the technical design project taking into account the fact that the new spaceship is to fly to the moon, among other places," Energia President Vitaly Lopota said Wednesday. "If we get normal financing, we will start flight tests of the spaceship in 2017."

"The moon among other places" means near-Earth asteroids or perhaps even Mars, suggesting that there will likely be several different versions of the capsule, appropriate for Earth orbit cargo transfer, lunar missions, and beyond. We already know that Russia has plans to send humans to the Moon and Mars between 2020 and 2050, and it's looking like the PPTS is what's going to get them there.

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