As part of a plan to upgrade and eventually replace the 40-year-old Soyuz design, the Russian firm RKK Energiya has been developing a 6-man winged spacecraft called Kliper. Its spaceplane shape will allow a gliding entry and lower G forces than those experienced by Soyuz occupants. The initial proposal came in 2004 and pictured a lifting body with small winglets. Originally, Kliper was to have a doughnut-shaped Service Module with a docking port in the middle, through which crews could gain access to the ISS. Only the forward part, with its lifting-body or winged design, would return to Earth. More recent ideas have the Habitation and Service Module acting as a space-tug named Parom, launched on a separate booster rocket. Kliper would enter space on its own launch vehicle, link up with Parom in orbit, and together they would rendezvous with the ISS. After a mission, the Parom space-tug would remain in space to be used again, while Kliper returned to Earth for reuse. Though highly modularized, this concept retains a fair degree of reusability, which is a definite step in the right direction. But by 2006, with the Russian government rejecting funding for Kliper, the project looked to be in doubt.
In July 2006, Russia and Europe decided to jointly develop a Crew Space Transportation System based on the Soyuz spacecraft. This seemed to doom Kliper, but RKK Energiya still hopes to see Kliper fly by 2012. Will Kliper ever fly?7,8
Was this article helpful?