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Soyuz-3 launch vehicle


The originally released configuration of the new spacecraft was a "lifting body," which provided effective aerodynamic lifting force during the reentry into the atmosphere. As a result, the ship would be able to conduct side maneuvers during its return to Earth, unlike a traditional reentry capsule, which is usually limited to a narrow corridor along the ground track of its final orbit.

The aerodynamic body of the Kliper sporting two vertical and one horizontal movable rudders on its tail would allow the vehicle to glide as far as 500 kilometers left and right from the ground track of its orbit, with G-loads not exceeding 2 and the skin temperature in the most critical area of the nose not exceeding 3,000K.

The spacecraft would feature combination of thermal protection systems borrowed from the Buran program and from the Soyuz spacecraft. Some sections of the thermal protection system, such as original nose section with the attachments for the emergency escape rocket, would be expendable.

The original landing system of a lifting-body version

The Kliper would land with the help of a three main uncontrolled parachutes and several solid-propellant engines, which would be fired shortly before the touchdown. As of February 2004, engineers were still debating a choice between special landing legs and an inflatable cushioning device to soften the landing. The latter would probably enable the spacecraft to safely splashdown in the water.

The flight control system should be able to "zero in" on the landing site with the total area of one by one kilometer.

Prior to each re-flight, critical parts of the thermal protection system, parachutes and soft landing engines would be replaced.


After completing a detailed evaluation of the lifting body, developers looked more closely at the winged version, which they ultimately favored over the lifting body.

In November 2004, RKK Energia presented a winged version of the Kliper spacecraft, developed in cooperation with the OKB Sukhoi, a renown manufacturer of military jet aircraft. The new configuration would enable Kliper to increase range of its side maneuver from 500 to 2,000 kilometers and to terminate its flight at virtually any orbit with subsequent landing on a regular runway. However, an emergency escape during the launch accident would now require a controlled landing at the airport rather than a relatively simple descent under parachutes into a random location along the flight path.

The main reason for the choice of winged fuselage was the fact that with wings, Kliper can land at any Class I airport with the runway from 2.5 to 3.5 kilometers. The distance of run would be about two kilometers, and designers built in some reserve for accuracy of reaching a runway.

In the winged version, only relatively small braking parachutes are considered.
The spacecraft will be able to conduct a side maneuver of about 1,500 kilometers each way to the side of its trajectory.

The landing will be accomplished in a fully automated mode. OKB Sukhoi will be responsible for designing the system. Unlike Buran, a fully autonomous navigation system is considered, which will use satellite navigation information.

The inclusion of wings into the system increased the weight of the spacecraft, however at the same time, allowed to get rid of considerable hardware previously needed for wingless, vertical-landing version of the vehicle. Wingless version of the spacecraft included engines of horizontal and vertical breaking, as well as protective heat shield, all of which could be disposed off.

Inside the cabin, cushioning chairs for the crew should no longer rotate into a horizontal position to provide optimal conditions for landing. A fully reusable spacecraft however, is much more difficult to develop initially.


Modular design

It was clear from the line art released in November 2004, that a fully encapsulated crew compartment of the Kliper spacecraft could be mated to either a lifting-body or winged carrier platform, both designed as separate modules. Such architecture would probably allow a phased development of the vehicle, first as a lifting body and later as a winged spacecraft.

Fuselage structure

As of June 2005, designers still were looking at aluminum allows and titanium as construction materials for the main body of the craft. The main cabin of the spacecraft would be additionally covered with reusable thermal isolation layer and then with thermal protection layer. In the search for the ideal thermal protection system, Russian designers looked at the experience of the European Space Agency.

Power supply system

Designers abandoned traditional solar panels in favor of fuel cells, which is essentially new for the Russian spacecraft, if not to count the LOK spacecraft, which never flew fully equipped and with the crew onboard.
Fuel cells provide power for the spacecraft's systems, including driving force for the aerodynamic controls, for which currently, engineers are choosing between hydraulic and electro-mechanical systems.

Thermal protection system

Similarly to the Shuttle, Kliper will carry three different types of thermal protection, for most critical, medium and light-heated regions of its body.

The engineers were long pondering about the size of thermal protection tiles. The effort was to increase the size of individual tiles, in order to reduce the total number of tiles and labor intensity required to maintain them. Engineers now believe that size of tiles can be increased from the original 150 by 150 mm up to 300 by 300 mm.

A single payload fairing, is planned to protect sensors extending from the service module of the spacecraft. It will be jettisoned after the launch-vehicle passes high-load area of atmospheric launch.

In September 2005, Russian press reported that RKK Energia contacted Plastik plant in Syzran, the manufacturer of composite materials for Russian rocket industry, on possible cooperation in the development of the thermal protection system of the Kliper vehicle. Final decision on the plant's participation in the program was expected at the end of 2005.

Emergency escape and orbital insertion system

Final orbit insertion is achieved by four firings of pairs of eight of emergency escape rockets. The engineers also re-introduced a truss-like structure designed to open during firing of the emergency escape system, and maintain stabilization in emergency, similar to one used on the Soyuz.

Emergency engines deliver the spacecraft into the initial orbit with the altitude of around 200 kilometers. The spacecraft will then use eight brand-new 60-kilogram thrust engines to complete the orbit insertion. Due to their use for critical orbital insertion and deorbiting maneuver, the engine will have built-in redundancy, allowing successful operations with as many as two engines failed.

To provide a simultaneous separation of the PAO module and the habitation module, which both have separate interfaces connecting them to the reentry craft, engineers will have to guarantee flawless performance of the separation system. To negate possible discrepancies in firing between the two, a flexible connectors are considered for integration into the transfer tunnel.

Propulsion system (orbital maneuvering system)

As of June 2005, RKK Energia looked at engines burning mix of ethanol and liquid oxygen for the main orbital maneuvering system.

Launch system

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. Igor Barmin, a chief of KBOM launch complex design bureau said that the architecture of the launch complex for the Soyuz rocket in Kourou would allow to modify it for manned launches of the Soyuz spacecraft, however more significant upgrades of the infrastructure would be required if the facility was to accomodate the Onega booster for Kliper.

Russian company KBOM received its first money for the construction of the launch pad for the Soyuz rocket in Kourou. On April 26, 2005, the countdown started for 35 months, during which, the company has to have the launch complex, for final tests (kompleksnye ispytaniya). The real launch then can take place within two months, sometimes in 2008.

The major difference of the Kourou launch facility from the Baikonur-based launch pads was the vertical integration of the upper stage and the payload of the Soyuz rocket on the launch pad. This was due to impossibility of processing some commercial payloads in horizontal position. To enable vertical assembly of the rocket, a movable service tower was introduced into the complex, which would be retracted shortly before launch. According to Barmin, that tower could potentially serve as the entry point for the crew to board the manned spacecraft.

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: January 19, 2010

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A scaled mockup of the winged version of the Kliper spacecraft, displayed during Paris Air Show in Le Bourget in June 2005. Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

The configuration of the Kliper spacecraft released on November 30, 2004. Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

Major elements of the Kliper spacecraft as of November 30, 2004. Click to enlarge: 300 x 234 pixels / 20K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

Artist interpretation of the Kliper reentry vehicle during landing. Click to enlarge: 400 x 302 pixels / 104K Copyright © 2004 Anatoly Zak

Scale model of the Yamal launcher (foreground), which will serve as a base for the Onega rocket. A two-stage version of the Zenit booster (shown on the background, not to the scale) would also be capable of launching the Kliper. Copyright © 2002 by Anatoly Zak