Clipper Russian space ship of the future


Senior Member
Oct 27, 2009
Russia to start research into spacecraft nuclear engines in 2010
Russia will launch research into nuclear engines for spaceships from 2010, the head of the Federal Space Agency said on Sunday.

"Nuclear engines for spaceships are a very promising area. Such engines should be created to make flights to Mars and other planets, for example," Anatoly Perminov said.

Perminov earlier said that the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial for Russia if the country wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Perminov said that the draft design of spacecraft powered by a nuclear engine would be finalized by 2012, and the financing for further development in the next nine years would require an investment of at least 17 billion rubles (over $580 million).

Anatoly Koroteyev, president of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and head of the Keldysh research center, earlier said that the key scientific and technical problem in sending manned missions to the Moon and Mars was the development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency.

The current capabilities of the Russian space industry are clearly insufficient either to set up a permanent base on the Moon or accomplish an independent manned mission to Mars, he said.

BAIKONUR SPACE CENTER (Kazakhstan), December 20 (RIA Novosti)

Russia to start research into spacecraft nuclear engines in 2010 | Top Russian news and analysis online | 'RIA Novosti' newswire

Russia, Europe abandon joint space project - Roscosmos

MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Europe will not continue the joint development of a new reusable manned spacecraft, an official from Russia's space agency (Roscosmos) said on Thursday.

The Federal Space Program for 2006-2015 stipulated the joint construction with European countries of a reusable "Clipper" spacecraft to service the International Space Station (ISS) and make journeys to the Moon.

"We planned to build a reusable manned spacecraft in cooperation with the European Space Agency [ESA], but our approaches to this project turned out to be very different," Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at Roscosmos, told a roundtable meeting in Moscow.

The official said Russia would launch a second tender for a new shuttle spacecraft because the first attempt had proved unsatisfactory. New design projects will be considered through 2010.

"The participants of a new tender may include the previous bidders - the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center and the Molniya Research and Production Association," Krasnov said.

He also said Russia was planning to build the project's first manned spacecraft by 2015-2018, along with a new carrier rocket with a payload capacity of at least 23 tons.

Various sources estimate the cost of the Russian reusable spacecraft project, including construction, will total $1-3 billion.

The launches of the future carrier rockets will be conducted from a new space center, Vostochny, in Russia's Far East, Krasnov said.

Russia currently uses two launch sites for space carrier rockets and ballistic missiles tests: the Baikonur space center in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, which it has leased since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.

Russia, Europe abandon joint space project - Roscosmos | Top Russian news and analysis online | 'RIA Novosti' newswire

Kliper (Clipper) spacecraft
Designing the Soyuz replacement: 2000-2005

Since 1970s, Russian engineers pondered over possible configurations of a new spacecraft, which could replace the venerable but relatively small Soyuz. Before the collapse of the USSR, RKK Energia -- the developer of the Soyuz -- attempted to tackle the issue several times, however technical and financial problems kept all these efforts from coming to fruition. However, as soon as the Russian economy started emerging from the post-Soviet transition, developers renewed their search for the Soyuz replacement.

The 2006 configuration of the winged orbiter

By January 2006, when the Russian government launched a tender for the development of the next generation spacecraft to replace Soyuz, RKK Energia conceptualized a new configuration of the Kliper spacecraft. Along with the improved aerodynamic shape, RKK Energia returned to the use of the expendable habitation and propulsion module, since the federal tender required a single spacecraft design, rather than a "system."

Competitors: Alternative designs for the Kliper

According to the Russian law, federal funding for the development of the Kliper spacecraft could not be provided before the official tender of for the project had taken place. Although many considered the tender a formality and RKK Energia's design as the favorite, Khrunichev enterprise in Moscow submitted its proposals for the follow-on to the TKS spacecraft and NPO Molniya pushed the modified design of the MAKS mini-shuttle, it proposed in the 1990s. The closed tender was officially held from January 18 to July 19, 2006.

Into deep space

Early on in the program, RKK Energia advertised the Kliper, as a multifunctional vehicle, potentially capable of supporting missions into deep space. Develolpers proposed modifications of the spacecraft, which could play role in lunar exploration and even serve as a return vehicle in the expeditions to Mars.

International cooperation

Practically on a day the existence of the Kliper project was revealed to the public, Russian officials admitted that despite its pragmatic and cost-conscious design, the new orbiter had little chance getting off the ground without financial backing from abroad. No surprisingly, the Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos, and RKK Energia launched an aggressive marketing effort to sell the Kliper to international partners. However, they had little room to shop around.



The Kliper sported a reusable aerodynamically active fuselage, protected by special tiles, not unlike those on the US Space Shuttle and the Soviet Buran. The original design of the Kliper included so-called "lifting body," a wingless iron-shaped fuselage, which would enable the craft to maneuver in the Earth atmosphere during the reentry. However, by the end of 2004, engineers favored a winged body, which would increase the maneuverability of the vehicle, while reducing g-loads on the crew.

Cabin module

The main habitable volume onboard the Kliper would be contained inside a cone-shaped cabin structure. The lower half of the cabin would be enclosed within the main fuselage, while the top half would be covered with special protective shield. The cabin carried all avionics, flight control, and life-support systems.

Propulsion and habitation module

The original design of the Kliper spacecraft included a special detachable habitation and service module mounted behind the reentry glider. In its turn, the module would consist of two structural sections: a habitation module, closely resembling the one on the Soyuz spacecraft and the doughnut-shaped service module. The habitation module would contain docking port, toilet and other life-support systems. The In 2005, most functions of the habitation and propulsion module were transferred to a separately launched Parom space tug.

Launch vehicle

According to the original plans, the Kliper would be launched on top of a yet-to-be developed Onega booster -- a heavily modified Soyuz rocket. Given virtually nonexistent chances of obtaining funding for the Onega, RKK Energia considered the operational Zenit booster with similar capabilities, as well as yet-to-be built Angara-3 rocket. The Soyuz-3 rocket was also considered as the alternative. However, upon "spliting" the spacecraft into two independent vehicles in 2005, RKK Energia settled on the smaller Soyuz-2-3 launcher. However alternative options still remained on the table as of beginning of 2006.

Parom orbital tug

During 2005, RKK Energia embarked on another major revision of the Kliper. It would be the third significant re-shaping of the spacecraft configuration, since it was first unveiled to the public in February 2004. The latest design included not one but two vehicles: the Kliper reentry glider itself and the Parom (ferry) orbital tug -- a new element of the system, which would be launched by a separate rocket.


Nominal flight profile in Earth orbit

In its latest configuration, the Kliper would be launched on top of the three-stage Soyuz-2-3 rocket and upon reaching the orbit would wait for the arrival of the Parom orbital tug, which would boost the vehicle to the space station. The Parom would use its free port on the "tail" side of the vehicle to dock with the space station. After undocking, the Parom would remain in orbit for the next mission, while the Kliper would reenter and land on the runway as a glider.

Emergency escape profiles

In the original concept, the Kliper would be topped with the emergency escape rocket, which would pull the glider away from the failing booster during the launch, as it was done onboard the Soyuz spacecraft. However in the effort to save weight and simplify aerodynamic flow around the nose of the orbiter, engineers decided to move the escape rockets to the launch vehicle adapter on the tail of the spacecraft, where they could double as the orbital maneuvering system.



Senior Member
Oct 27, 2009

History of the Kliper (Clipper) spacecraft

Since 1970s, Russian engineers pondered over possible configurations of a new spacecraft, which could replace the venerable but relatively small Soyuz. Before the collapse of the USSR, RKK Energia -- the developer of the Soyuz -- attempted to tackle the issue several times, however technical and financial problems kept all these efforts from coming to fruition. However, as soon as the Russian economy started emerging from the post-Soviet transition, developers renewed their search for the Soyuz replacement.

Initial disclosure

During a press-conference at the ITAR TASS news agency on February 17, 2004, Yuri Koptev revealed that since 2000, RKK Energia had been working on a brand-new vehicle called Kliper (Clipper). In the following days, a flurry of reports in the Russian press provided the first details on the project.

At the time of Koptev's announcement, the project apparently had already evolved through several reincarnations, however from the outset it was a partially reusable "lifting-body" -- essentially a wingless orbiter, shaped in such a way that it could have an aerodynamic lift, when returning from orbit into the atmosphere. It would be launched by a medium class rocket.

The initial studies, which led to the Kliper concept, sought a modern vehicle capable of replacing the Soyuz, but built on existing manufacturing base as much as possible. One of the early concepts included an enlarged reentry capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft for as many as five or six people. However soon requirements for the precise landing dictated a vehicle, which would be capable of the controlled flight in the atmosphere.

In the second half of the 1990s, a leading aerodynamist of RKK Energia, Reshetin, proposed a reusable "lifting-body" spacecraft, which could carry up to six people and return up to 700 kilograms from orbit. In the following years, the aerodynamics of the vehicle was calculated and its mockup was tested in a wind tunnel. (259)

As of 2004, RKK Energia had submitted technical proposals for the new spacecraft to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos. The agency has apparently provided limited funding for further preliminary studies.

In April 2004, Nikolai Moiseev, First Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, FKA, (formerly Rosaviacosmos) told Russian news agency that the Kliper project would be included in the federal space plan for 2005-2015.

On November 30, 2004, RKK Energia invited the press into its Checkout and Testing Station, KIS, to inspect a full-scale mockup of the Kliper spacecraft. The company also released revised technical information on the project, including details on a winged version of the spacecraft, developed in parallel with the work on the "lifting body."

Switch to wings

During 2004, RKK Energia apparently contacted its European partners on the feasibility of cooperative development of the Kliper. In 2005, RKK Energia displayed the spacecraft at EXPO-2005 in Japan and Le Bourget Air and Space Show, France.

However, the funding for the project was not forthcoming. In April 2005, in the interview with the Russian Novosti News Agency, Valeri Ryumin, Deputy designer General at RKK Energia said that the Russian federal budget did not earmarked any money for the program.

Upon completion of the preliminary evaluation of the lifting body for the Kliper, designers turned their attention to the concept of a winged vehicle. Although at one point both concepts were considered in parallel, soon RKK Energia focused on the winged version. At the time, Yuri Koptev still led the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos, comprising both aviation and space industry. He apparently facilitated the involvement of the aviation industry into the Kliper project, which made the development of the winged orbiter both desirable and feasible.

Sukhoi's involvement

In March 2005, realizing new challenges of a winged design, RKK Energia leadership convinced OKB Sukhoi, a world-renown developer of military aircraft, to invest its own resources and expertise into the Kliper project. The agreement signed in March 2005 was reached after several months of negotiations between RKK Energia's chief Yuri Semenov and the head of the Sukhoi company Mikhail Pagasyan.

According to the agreement, RKK Energia would remain responsible for the overall design of the vehicle, including its aerodynamic shape, and RKK Energia would be responsible for ensuring the survivability of the aerodynamic shape of the vehicle at hypersonic speed. Sukhoi was expected to take RKK Energia's aerodynamic shape and conduct wind-tunnel tests according to their methodic for its temperature and stability characteristics.

Enter Europe

In search for partners in the development of the Kliper spacecraft, RKK Energia also looked outside Russia. With NASA out of the picture as a potential partner, Russians sought the cooperation with Europe and Japan.

Choosing the launcher

According to the original plans, the Kliper would be launched on top of a yet-to-be developed Onega booster -- a heavily modified Soyuz rocket -- with no payload fairing but with the emergency escape rocket attached to the nose section of the reentry capsule. The emergency escape system, resembling that of the Soyuz spacecraft, would be capable of pulling the crew capsule away from the launch vehicle at every stage of the launch and orbit insertion.

A successful development of the Onega booster and its launch infrastructure would be one of the most challenging and expensive aspects of the project. Also, the decision to base the project on the expendable booster would limit economic viability of the reusable spacecraft. The Onega booster, could be launched from upgraded Soyuz facilities in Baikonur, Plesetsk and, potentially, French Guiana.

Given virtually nonexistent chances of obtaining funding for the Onega, RKK Energia considered the Zenit booster with similar capabilities. The most advanced vehicle in the Soviet rocket fleet, the Zenit was essentially banished from the Russian space program, when the collapse of the USSR left its prime manufacturer in the newly independent republic of Ukraine. Yet, in the case of Kliper, technical pragmatism outweighed political considerations.

By August 2004, the company essentially committed to "re-tailor" the Kliper for the Zenit. The spacecraft had to shed around 1.5 tons from its total mass and around one ton from the mass of its reentry capsule. In addition, the emergency escape system was moved from the top of the spacecraft to the launch vehicle adapter. This way, during a nominal flight, emergency escape engines would be used for final orbital insertion maneuver, providing extra weight savings.

In 2005, the idea of using the Soyuz-derived vehicle re-surfaced again, however the Onega concept was replaced by the Soyuz-3 configuration. As of June 2005, Zenit, Soyuz-3 and Angara were all considered as launch vehicles.

Introduction of Parom

During 2005, RKK Energia embarked on another major revision of the Kliper design. The new configuration included not one but two vehicles: the Kliper reentry glider itself and the Parom (ferry) orbital tug -- a new element of the system, which would be launched by a separate rocket. Splitting the spacecraft into two independent segments would enable their launches onboard a modified version of the Soyuz rocket, which has been a workhorse of the Russian manned spaceflight for decades. The launch vehicle, designated Soyuz-2-3, would become a culmination of incremental upgrades then planned for the Soyuz-2 family of rockets.

As added bonus, the use of the Soyuz-2-3 rocket would allow launching the Kliper from the European Space Agency's facility in French Guiana, offering extra payload capabilities due to its geographical location.

Federal tender

Despite a setback in securing the European funding for the project in December of 2005, the Russian government said it had already committed to the development of the vehicle.

On October 22, 2005, the Russian government signed a decree No. 635, approving Federal Space Program for 2006-2015. It included planned funding for the new generation of reusable spacecraft. However in the accordance with the current Russian law, the prime developer of the vehicle had to be chosen in a tender. As a result, Khrunichev enterprise and NPO Molniya were invited to compete with RKK Energia in a closed tender, which opened at Roskosmos headquarters in Moscow on January 18, 2006.

Little details on the content of the proposals had been officially released at the beginning of the tender; although Roskosmos did state that the paperwork submitted by NPO Molniya had not met the requirements of the tender, since the cost of the proposal was calculated in "foreign currency" and the proper authorization was missing.

Competing proposals

Number of observers believed that Khrunichev came to the tender with a proposal for a follow-on to the TKS spacecraft, whose configuration had surfaced previously. However a drawing of a small winged vehicle with folding wings and launched by the Angara-3 rocket had also circulated.

NPO Molniya presented a slightly modified version of the MAKS space plane, which would be launched in mid-air from the An-225 Mriya transport aircraft.

Kliper in 2006 configuration

For obvious reasons, all eyes were on the latest reincarnation of the Kliper design submitted to the tender by RKK Energia, however details were emerging slowly. An officially released photo of RKK Energia's president Nikolai Sevastyanov holding an artist rendition of the "new" Kliper at the opening of the tender was analyzed to death, but it was too distorted by the perspective and low resolution to clearly visualize the vehicle.

First clear images of the latest configuration leaked from the Proceedings on the Cosmonautics held at Bauman school in Moscow on January 25-27, 2006. A redesigned shape of the Kliper, as well as modifications of the Parom orbital tug became apparent. At the time, RKK Energia kept all options on the table with respect to the launch vehicle. The Soyuz-2, Soyuz-2-3, Angara-3 and Zenit were all under consideration.

RKK Energia also returned to the use of the expendable habitation and propulsion module, since the tender required a single spacecraft design, rather than a "system." The Kliper with the habitation and propulsion module could still be launched by the Zenit-2 or the Soyuz-3 rockets, while the lighter vehicle could fly later on the Soyuz-2-3.

As required by the tender, the Kliper would be capable of lunar missions, (apparently, in a wingless configuration), and even had a potential for its use in the expeditions to Mars.

In the meantime, studies of Kliper's aerodynamics during 2005 resulted in drastic changes in the shape of its fuselage. In the effort to reduce heat loads on the underbelly of the vehicle during the reentry, engineers "rounded" a previously flat bottom of the vehicle. The wing structure was now attached to the fuselage at a higher position than before.

A somewhat flattened fuselage now held a cylindrical crew compartment and conical nose section. The crew members would now sit in pairs in three rows, instead of previous two rows with two pilots in front and four passengers behind.

Tender extends into 2006

Many observers saw the tender as a formality and RKK Energia a predetermined winner. They were proven wrong, when on February 3, 2006, when the tender was expected to be concluded, space officials announced the extension. According to Roskosmos, "none of the contenders was able to fully satisfy the requirements of the tender in respect to technical feasibility of the project within established timeframe and at the required level of safety." Representative of Roskosmos was quoted saying that the commission, which oversaw the tender, would clarify its requirements and deliver them to the participants within a month. On February 17, 2006, Deputy Head of Roskosmos Nikolai Moiseev said that the tender would be completed before the end of 2006. Moiseev added that the spacecraft should be able to function in space autonomously for no less than a month and be capable of lunar missions.

Then, it was widely anticipated that even if Khrunichev and NPO Molniya lose the competition to RKK Energia, the companies could still assume a role in the project as subcontractors.

Deferral of the program

On July 19, 2006, Russian space agency, Roskosmos, announced that it deferred the development of the new manned spacecraft until the next stage in the modernization of the nation's manned transport system. The agency's statement hinted that RKK Energia proposals for the Kliper spacecraft and Khrunichev's concept of the TKS-based capsule required the development of launch vehicles (Soyuz-2-3 and Angara-3 respectively), which Russian government would not be able to fund within 2006-2015 timeframe. The NPO Molniya's proposal for the development of an air-launched vehicle was rejected on the grounds that it involved the Antonov-224 Mriya carrier aircraft manufactured in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, while Russian government wanted all system contractors to be located inside Russia.

In the meantime, the agency accepted alternative proposals from RKK Energia to conduct a radical upgrade of the Soyuz spacecraft, in order to give it the capabilities for circumlunar missions. Roskosmos said that the upgraded Soyuz would allow testing of prospective technologies, which could be later applied to the next-generation systems. According to Roskosmos, results of this work would pave the way to the decision on the design of the next generation spacecraft, "if such (spacecraft) would be required."


Evolution of the Kliper design
Distinctive characteristics Status
A wingless lifting body with emergency escape engines attached in the nose and solar panels on the service module. Would use parachute landing. Unveiled in February 2004
A wingless lifting body with emergency escape engines placed on the launch vehicle adapter, where they can double as orbital insertion system. Solar panels replaced with fuel cells. Unveiled in November 2004
A winged vehicle, presented as an alternative to the lifting body design. Orbital maneuvering engines moved inside of the service module from the external surface of the habitation module. Aerodynamic shape redesigned to accommodate wings. Number of attitude control thrusters reduced. Unveiled in November 2004
A winged vehicle without habitation and service modules, designed to dock with the Parom orbital tug. Developed during 2005
Aerodynamic shape of the vehicle is redesigned to reduce heat loads during reentry. Crew seats are arranged in three rows. Presented to the government tender in January 2006
A Soyuz-bssed vehicle, capable of circumlunar missions, employing new technologies, which could be potentially used in the development of a winged reusable orbiter. Declared as a preferred configuration in July 2006

Development plan (as of 2005)

As of 2005, the development plan for the Kliper project called for following milestones:

2007: Completion of the preliminary design

2008: Completion of the working documentation

2012: Completion of the experimental development

2013: First (unmanned) flight test

Development cooperation
Primary developer

RKK Energia

Aerodynamics OKB Sukhoi Moscow
Thermal protection Plastik Syzran


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