Moscow: Manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) under an ultra-fast three-hour scheme involving circling the Earth twice, will begin in a year and a half, said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos. "We are planning to repeat the launch of the Progress cargo spacecraft in an ultra-short two-rotation scheme next March".
"The flight time is three hours. In a year and a half, we will deliver cosmonauts and space tourists to the ISS faster than a flight from Moscow to Brussels," Rogozin tweeted on Sunday. He also confirmed that the next cargo spacecraft would be launched on March 28 under an ultra-fast scheme. For decades, spaceships with crew and cargo typically flew for about 50 hours before reaching the ISS.
In 2013, Russia introduced a six-hour route to the International Space Station, consisting of four orbits. Earlier in July, Progress MS-09 spacecraft was the first to be launched to the ISS under the three-hour scheme. According to Roscosmos, the decision to test the new operational scheme was made only after the spaceship was space-borne, and the required conditions were confirmed.
"The two-rotation scheme for spacecrafts' docking with the ISS will be used for the first time in the history of space flights," the agency had said. The docking with the ISS took place three hours and 40 minutes after the spacecraft's launch, which is nine minutes earlier than the estimated time. The previous record was five hours and 39 minutes, the report said.