credit Energia / caption: First seen at Farnborough air show 2008, will this design change?

A prime contractor is to be picked for Russia’s Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS) following a meeting of the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmo) scientific and engineering boards. The maiden flight is expected around 2016 and its development schedule and design will be ready next year, according to the head of Roscosmos Anatoly Perminov

ACTS is Russia’s name for what the European Space Agency (ESA) referred to as Crew Space Transportation System aka CSTS. Hyperbola understands that tensions between the two arose over ESA’s interest in capsule technologies. And Russia’s insistence that it only wanted western European electronics for the vehicle and the service module was where ESA should focus its work. The Russian demand that only a new Russian rocket launch ACTS/CSTS was apparently another stumbling block

Under its new three-year budget ESA has some €6 million ($7.76 million) for cooperationn with Russia on space transportation projects and a further €21 million for its Advanced Reentry Vehicle programme that could give ESA’s International Space Station resupply ship, Automated Transfer Vehicle a down mass capability that becomes the foundation for a EADS Astrium Ariane 5 launched manned vehicle  

And so now Perminov has given the strongest indication yet that his country is going to go it alone in developing a replacement for Soyuz. But the last time the agency had a tender process for a new spacecraft it cancelled it but that was for Kliper, need I say any more?

Below is part of Roscomos’ translation of the Perminov interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, go here to read the entire article on the space agency’s website

RG: Russia commences design and development of an advanced space crew vehicle, which is to replace Soyuz. Will Russia do it independently, or in cooperation with Europe? 

Perminov: In November 2008, ESA Ministerial Counsel approved ATV-based cargo return capsule project, with possible further step forward to the crew vehicle design. We have completed preliminary studies of the advanced crew transportation system for LEO and lunar missions. Most likely, Russia will develop the new crew vehicle autonomously. 

RG: What will it look like?

Perminov: There was a subpanel meeting of the Roscosmos and TSNIIMASh (Central Machine Building R&D Institute) scientific and engineering boards. All the interested Roscosmos entities and organizations were also involved in this meeting. The agenda covered discussion of advanced crew systems, including design of the new crew vehicle. Next, we place a tender to pick a company, which is to lead the project. 
RG: Americans state that their new vehicle Orion will be completed to make its maiden mission in 2016. What about the due dates for our vehicle?
Perminov: Commissioning date for our crew vehicle is approximately the same, according to the estimations. More precise master-schedule will be presented in the draft design documents. It should be available by mid 2010.