TOKYO, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Japan intends to be launching astronauts into space aboard a manned capsule by 2017, officials with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency say.
The proposed capsule or mini-shuttle would carry a crew of three and deliver up to 880 pounds of cargo into orbit to destinations such as the International Space Station.
The capsule, which would be similar in capacity to the U.S. SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, is being proposed in two versions: a 15,400-pound design that would use parachutes for return to Earth, and a 19,800-pound version equipped with a maneuverable parafoil to provide greater control with resultant landing accuracy to within 1.9 miles.
While the lighter capsule would need to make ocean landing, the heavier parafoil version could land on solid ground, JAXA officials said.
Development of the recoverable capsules would begin in 2013 with first flights envisioned for 2017, they said.
"This year on these [manned] technologies we are spending $600,000," and requests have been submitted for additional funding, Kuniaki Shiraki, JAXA's executive director of human space systems told SPACE.com.