Russia’s three separate teams of cosmonauts will be merged into one before the end of 2010, according to officials at the Russian Federal Space Agency’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, home of one of the teams.

Russia currently has 35 cosmonauts and three cosmonaut candidates divided among three teams: one at the Gagarin center, the second at space hardware builder RSC Energia, and the third at the Institute of the Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Sergei Krikalev, the cosmonaut who runs the Gagarin Center, said Nov. 23 that the three teams will be consolidated into one at Gagarin.

“The decision is taken; we need to decide procedures,” Krikalev said. “Now the work is going on to have a single united team by the year end.”

His adviser at the center, Oleg Kotov, said Dec. 2 that the teams will be united in order to streamline the training process under the sole management of Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos, and to better allocate existing resources.

Kotov said the Gagarin Center would continue competitively selecting candidates not only from among specialists working for the center, Energia and other space industry companies but also among young people with higher technical educations working in Russia’s scientific centers.