A Russian space official said the country's new digitally controlled Soyuz TMA orbital vehicles will be able to handle human spaceflight needs until the reusable KLIPER shuttle becomes operational in the next decade, RIA Novosti reported Thursday.
"Before the new Kliper space shuttle is there to take over, we will have to master new digital control systems that we are now installing on Soyuz (spacecraft) instead of analogue parts," Nikolai Sevastyanov, the chief executive of rocket manufacturer Energiya, told the state-owned news service.
Sevastyanov added that only Russian-made systems will be used to upgrade the Soyuz TMA, and the digital version will be cheaper, lighter and more spacious than existing models.
The three-seat Soyuz TMA capsule has been the sole vehicle to carry crews to the International Space Station over the past three years, ever since U.S. space shuttle flights were suspended after the Columbia disaster in February 2003. Only one flight has taken place since then - with Discovery last July - and the next flight is scheduled for no earlier than this July 1.
Russia's next-generation reusable Kliper shuttle, which seats six, is expected to replace the veteran Soyuz by 2015.
Copyright 2006 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International
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