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Space

Russian Manned Space Vehicle May Land With Rockets 197

The Narrative Fallacy writes "Russia's next-generation manned space vehicle may be equipped with thrusters to perform a precision landing on its return to Earth. Previous manned missions have landed on Earth using a parachute or, in the case of space shuttles, a pair of wings. Combined with retractable landing legs and a re-usable thermal protection system, the new system promises to enable not only a safe return to Earth, but also the possibility of performing multiple space missions with the same crew capsule. The spacecraft will fire its engines at an altitude of just 600-800m, as the capsule is streaking toward Earth after re-entering the atmosphere at the end of its mission. After a vertical descent, the precision landing would be initiated at the altitude of 30m above the surface. Last July, Korolev-based RKK Energia released the first drawings of a multi-purpose transport ship, known as the Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS), which, at the time, Russia had hoped to develop in co-operation with Europe. 'It was explained to us how it was supposed to work and, I think, from the technical point of view, there is no doubt that this concept would work,' says Christian Bank, the leading designer of manned space systems at EADS-Astrium in Bremen, Germany. However, the design of the spacecraft's crew capsule had raised eyebrows in some quarters, as it lacked a parachute — instead sporting a cluster of 12 soft-landing rockets, burning solid propellant. Inside Russia, the idea apparently has many detractors. During the formal defense of the project, one high-ranking official skeptical of the rocket-cushioned approach to landing reportedly used an unprintable expletive to describe what was going to happen to crew members unlucky enough to encounter a rocket engine failure a few seconds before touchdown."

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