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Status Of Russian Space Vehicle Unclear

7 October 2005 -- Russia today successfully launched a mini-shuttle spacecraft on a sea-based ballistic missile.

But it remains unclear whether the experiment has ended as planned.

The Demonstrator spacecraft was launched today from a nuclear-powered submarine in the northern Barents Sea.

It was supposed to land on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula 30 minutes later.

Earlier reports said the craft was seen descending over the area. But so far, according to latest reports, it has not yet been located.

The Demonstrator is designed to be delivered deflated and folded to the International Space Station. Astronauts will be able to inflate the mini-shuttle with nitrogen, and then load it with several tons of cargo for its trip back to Earth.

Designers said it will make the cargo return much cheaper compared to U.S. space shuttles.

Three test launches of the Demonstrator prior to today ended in failure.


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