In the footsteps of Soyuz
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FOR NEARLY 40 years, the Soyuz spacecraft has been the only manned vehicle to fly from Soviet/Russian soil. Although the spacecraft has undergone numerous modifications over that period, its basic design and capabilities have remained unchanged. Until early 2004 it looked as if the latest version, Soyuz TMA and its further modifications were going to serve the Russian space programme indefinitely. That picture changed when Russian Space Agency chief Yuriy Koptev held a news conference in Moscow on 17 February 2004. Answering a totally unrelated question about possible manned Soyuz missions from Kourou, Koptev remarked almost in passing that RKK Energiya, the country’s leading space company, was working on a new manned vehicle “with a reusable return capsule and with a mass of 12–14 tonnes”. Two days after Koptev’s disclosure, Nikolai Bryukhanov, the deputy general director of RKK Energiya, revealed to journalists of the Russian space magazine Novosti Kosmonavtiki that the vehicle was called “Kliper” (“Clipper”) and that Energiya had begun work on it “on its own initiative” as early as 2000.
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