Wednesday, 5 October 2005

A New Player?

From the BBC :
The European Space Agency (ESA) is proposing joining forces with Russia to develop a new vehicle for human spaceflight, the Clipper.

The six-person spaceplane would give European astronauts autonomous access to the space station and the Moon.

ESA will ask its member states to fund a 30-40m-euro preparatory study at its next ministerial meeting.
"The objective is to have a vehicle which is more comfortable than the Soyuz capsule which will be used with pilots and four passengers," Alain Fournier-Sicre, head of the ESA permanent mission in the Russian Federation, told the BBC News website.

"It's meant to service the space station and to go between Earth and an orbit around the Moon with six crew members."

The Clipper is essentially a "people carrier" designed to transport astronauts, said Alan Thirkettle, head of the ESA's Human Spaceflight Development Department.

By joining forces with Russia, Europe would have access to a fixed number of seats on the vehicle, perhaps one or two per flight, for use by its own astronauts.

"At the moment we have to ask the Russians or ask the Americans to fly an astronaut," said Mr Thirkettle. "Through participation in the Clipper, we would have the right to seats when we want them."

European industry would benefit, too, from Russia's years of experience in human spaceflight, he said. Russia, in return, would have access to certain technologies that are more sophisticated in Europe.

"It potentially is a fairly happy marriage," said Mr Thirkettle.
Given the less-than-stellar history of multinational co-operation in space (why do you think the multi-national ESA is in the state it's in), I wish them the Best of British (and French and German and....) Luck.

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