Russia launches Shuttle demonstrator

by Chris Bergin

Russia’s Defence Ministry has successfuly launched a Shuttle Demonstrator from a Russian Submarine in the Barents Sea – which then completed a 35 minute sub-orbital flight before being retrived on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The craft – described only as a ‘mini shuttle’ by military officials quoted by the TASS news agency in Moscow – was launched on a converted Volna booster from a submerged Borisoglebsk submarine early Friday (local time).

No other information on the craft has been revealed by officials and it is not known if there is any relevance to the new Kliper Shuttle which is currently being developed for service.
Following its short flight, it landed safely on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
It’s high times for the Russian space flight program, with the head of the Russian Space Agency’s Piloted Programs, Alexei Krasno, almost sounding like he was addressing NASA’s current problems with their Space Shuttle when noting to a media conference that “in 2004 Russia regained its status of leader in space launches.
“We’ll definitely retain this status in 2005,” noting the schedule to be as aggressive as 2004 – with two Soyuz and four Progress launches – the final of which is due to launch in December – on the manifest for flights to the ISS. 
“It’s not a race for quantity,” he added. “It’s confirmation that we have retained our placed at the top of the market for space services.”

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