Kliper space craft commences
With all the talk about suborbital space ships, it’s easy to forget that the Russians were thinking of building a Soyuz replacement, but lacked the money. Projected costs were around 300 million US$, IIRC, which is still said to be cheaper than a single space shuttle launch. (A Soyuz launch is rumoured to cost around 20 million US$, but only seats three–the Kliper can take six or seven people into orbit and beyond.)
Well, it seems that money has been found, and the building is underway. A press release from the Russian space agency has pictures. I did not realize this thing actually has a door!
The Kliper builders are not the only ones short of cash. Wired Magazine discusses how American builders of sub-orbital space planes and rockets have to angle for money, and how they look to filthy rich sugar daddies like Paul Allen and Richard Branson to hand it over. This got me thinking; in the Middle East, there are plenty of wealthy oil sheiks who have no idea what to do with their money. Why don’t they invest it in the Kliper? After the Space Shuttle has been phased out, the Kliper will for a time be the only ship capable of bringing people into orbit, so that would seem a sound investment. Also, it would give them a chance to build their own space port–Dubai is a fair bit closer to the equator than Kazakhstan.