A UNIQUE piece of aerospace history being auctioned off by a Bahrain-based company could fetch up to $2 million.
The Soviet space capsule, which circled the earth twice in 1977 and 1978, was most recently on display in Riyadh at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
Named Vozvraschaemyi Apparat (VA), the capsule will go under the hammer in Brussels on May 7.
It can carry three cosmonauts, weighs 1.9 tonnes, is 2.2m high, and has a diameter of 2.8m.
It is presently in Berlin, Germany, where people can preview it ahead of the auction.
The sale of the distinctive piece will signify the first time that a space capsule will be auctioned in Europe.
A9C Capital, which has been tasked with selling the capsule, is pitching to museums, collectors and space enthusiasts.
"In 2011, a similar space capsule was auctioned in New York for $2.8m and it is estimated that this one will sell for between $1m and $2m," said the company's chairman and chief executive officer Dr Bernd Hoefer.
"There are only a small group of potential buyers made up of museums, collectors and space enthusiasts, but we expect the most interest will come from Russia, East Asia and the Middle East."
VA space capsules have been integral part of various Soviet space programmes including the "Race to the Moon" and the "Almaz" programme during the Cold War, between the US and the former Soviet Union.
The one being auctioned was developed as one of the first type of spacecraft which was reusable and has flown twice into the low earth orbit.
The capsule in principle is unused as it was never boarded by a cosmonaut as it was only sent up to space on test missions.
"In principle, it is still functional - not fully but the equipment is - obviously it won't fly as it has to be attached to a shuttle," said Dr Hoefer, who is a former vice-chairman of the German Aerospace Centre and used to be vice-chairman
of a German aerospace company.
"When it is sold the sale has to be approved by the Russian government - as they don't want it to end up in the hands of just anyone - not only that but a certain commission from the Russian government has to deliver it to the buyer."
Two Russian Sukol KV2 space suits will be auctioned alongside the VA, which were worn by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri on his flight to the MIR space station (1996) and British-American astronaut Michael Foale on his flight to the International Space Station, ISS (2003).
Interested buyers can register to bid for the space capsule via the website www.lempertz.eu.