Megawatt-class nuclear energy unit for a long-distance spaceship will be ready by 2017, news agency RIA Novosti reports citing Denis Kovalevich, the head of the cluster of nuclear technologies of Skolkovo, the state-sponsored innovation hub near completion under Moscow.
Earlier Anatoly Perminov, the head of the nuclear state corporation Rosatom, said that the engine unit would be done by 2019, and the new spaceship would be built no earlier than 2025.
“We are currently testing a number of fuels, than we’ll enter a design stage. The first pieces of the nuclear unit should be ready in 2013, with the unit to be completed by 2017,” Mr. Kovalevich explained.
The megawatt-class nuclear energy propulsion will be installed on the ship for long-distance space flights. The design of the ship will reportedly be performed by the Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia”. The research is expected to cost 17 billion rubles (approximately $575m) over nine years.
Investment into construction of the nuclear energy unit-based transport-energy module in 2010-2018 is estimated at 7.245 billion rubles ($245m). The finance will be allocated under the Rosatom’s innovation development program.
Under plans, in 2013-2018 nine innovative technologies will be applied within the project. 2018 will reportedly see increase in the level of electric power of space systems and cost effectiveness of cruise propulsions.
The idea of nuclear engines is not new. Back in the 1960ies decisions on development of nuclear rocket engines were made by legendary academicians Mstislav Keldysh, Igor Kurchatov, and Sergey Korolev.
Research in the sector was carried out in both USSR and USA. Many reconnaissance satellites, equipped with small-power nuclear engines, browsed the space at the time. Later the two countries agreed to ban flights of nuclear-engine satellites. However, the agreement may be overlooked for an international research expedition to the Moon and Mars.