Russia Reportedly Test-Launches Mini-Shuttle

Russia on Friday successfully test-launched a mini-shuttle spacecraft on a sea-based ballistic missile, Russian news agencies reported.

The Demonstrator spacecraft, which was launched on a converted Volna booster rocket from the Borisoglebsk nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea (search), landed in the Kura test range on Russia's Far East Kamchatka Peninsula.

The spacecraft is to be folded up and transported to the international space station on a Russian cargo ship, and is to be used to bring cargoes back to earth, the ITAR-Tass (search) news agency reported. It was built on contract for the European Space Agency (search) and the German firm EADS ST, the Interfax news agency said.

Three previous launches failed, ITAR-Tass said, but this time the Demonstrator launched successfully.

"The unfolding and inflating system worked successfully in space, the heat protection did not let the craft down in the dense layers of the atmosphere," ITAR-Tass quoted the Russian space agency as saying.