Final preparations for the first Soviet space shuttle flight are drawing to a close with special attention being paid to a fully automatic landing system, the official Pravda newspaper said Saturday.

The Soviets hope to launch their version of a reusable space vehicle by the end of this year and will be closely observing the results of the U.S. launch of the shuttle Discovery next Thursday.Pravda, in a dispatch from the pilot simulator training center at the Tsagi Aircraft Institute in Moscow, said the "preparation of the Soviet reusable space system draws to an end."

Scientists at the institute were putting the final touches on a totally automatic landing system, which they believe is safer than a manual landing system.

Until now, Pravda said, all aircraft, including all-weather aircraft, depended to some extent on manual control. "Even on the American shuttle, all their landings were operated manually," the article said.

"With very fast speed and steepness, it (the shuttle) heads toward the sole place of landing," Pravda said. "It (landing site) cannot be changed even when the spacecraft is a thousand kilometers away."

Likewise, Pravda said, "it is impossible to go around, make a turn and repeat the approach. In these conditions, automatic landing remains the ideal safety measure, so scientists and designers decided to make this ideal feasible."

The Soviet shuttle, which uses the two-stage, liquid-fueled Energia rocket system, also will have three manual backup landing systems, Pravda said.

Last week, Alexander Dunayev, head of the commercial space agency Glavkosmos, said, "We will launch by the end of this year." No date was given, however.

Except for saying that a three-mile-long runway has been completed at an undisclosed site, the Soviets have released few details of their shuttle program.