MOSCOW, Nov 9 (Reuters) Russia has launched a project to create a new generation of spacecraft and boosters, the head of national space administration said today, making clear that they would not appear on orbit before 2020.
''A tender to design a new booster and spaceship has been announced,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov as saying.
Leadership in space exploration was an issue of national pride in the Soviet Union, which was the first to launch a satellite and a human into space.
Although badly hit in the years of post-Soviet political and economic turmoil, the space sector remains one of a few where Russia remains competitive and on which it pins hopes to diversify its economy heavily reliant on oil and gas exports.
Perminov did not give further details of the tender, but said TsSKB-Progress from the Volga city of Samara is likely to bid with its Soyuz-3 design of spacecraft, as well as Moscow's Khrunichev centre with Angara 3P and Angara 5P.
The United States beat the Soviet Union in developing multiple-use Space Shuttle rockets, which form its current fleet of manned spacecraft.
Russian space officials have said single-use spacecraft like the Soyuz-TM currently used are cheaper and more practical.
Perminov reiterated Russia's commitment to build its own cosmodrome to launch new rockets. At the moment Russia rents its main cosmodrome, Baikonur, from ex-Soviet Kazakhstan.
He said at the same time he hoped Baikonur would be used for at least another 13 years.
''We are not leaving and will not be able to leave Baikonur until 2020 as long as Soyuz craft fly,'' he said, quoted by RIA news agency.
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