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MOSCOW, April 23. /TASS/. Hopes are high Russia’s new generation manned spacecraft will make its maiden flight in 2021 and a voyage of its unmanned configuration around the Moon will follow in the middle of the next decade, the president of Russia’s space rocket corporation Energia, Vladimir Solntsev, told TASS in an interview.
"The launch is due in 2021. The first flights will be made to the International Space Station. Then, an unmanned voyage around the Moon will follow in the mid-2020s. Further on, in 2029 we plan to carry out the delivery and surfacing of Russian cosmonauts on the Moon with the use of a landing and lift-off module," Solntsev said.
He recalled that under the latest decision the new generation spacecraft would be delivered to the Moon with two Angara-A5V rockets.
"Instead of creating a super-heavy rocket capable of propelling an 80-tonne payload into a near-Earth orbit we opted for a double launch solution with the use of the already tested Angara-A5 rocket. It will be upgraded for carrying 35-37-tonne payloads and assigned the official name Angara-A5V," Solntsev said.
"The selected option - that of coupling the manned capsule and the booster rocket in a near-earth orbit - instead of building a super-heavy rocket will save enormous funds and bring us much closer to the date of the first flight to the Moon," he said.
Solntsev said that for implementing these plans the Energia Corporation and the Khrunichev Centre had already drafted a technical proposal for using a third hydrogen-powered stage and an oxygen-hydrogen powered booster for putting a payload into orbit around the Moon.
"A configuration of the DM booster of our manufacture will be involved in this program, too," Solntsev said.
A new generation spacecraft is expected to replace the Soyuz family of delivery vehicles being used these days. It will be capable of taking a crew of six to a low near-Earth orbit or a crew of four to the Moon. Research into this spacecraft of the future has been underway since 2009. The original intention was to make the first unmanned launch in 2015 and the first manned launch in 2018. Both have now been postponed till 2021 and 2024.