18 Jan 2019 10:02

Russia designs power unit for space-based nuclear power plant - Khrunichev

MOSCOW. Jan 18 (Interfax) - Russia has designed a power unit for the prospective space-based nuclear power plant, a specialist of the Salyut Design Bureau, an affiliate of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, said in his report prepared for the Korolyov Readings.

"A power unit has been designed on the basis of the megawatt nuclear reactor, and a turbine power generator has been tested in furtherance of Russia's project of space-based nuclear power plant," the report said.

"A project has been elaborated to integrate the hardware into a transportation-and-power module based on the electric rocket propulsion unit," it said.

Plans to design a nuclear-powered engine "for flights to other planets" were announced in November 2009. It was reported later that the nuclear-powered engine for the prospective transportation-and-power module would be designed by the Keldysh Center by 2015.

A number of media outlets said in 2015 that the project had been terminated, but Roscosmos denied the reports. It was initially planned to launch a nuclear-powered module in 2018. Oleg Gorshkov, the head of the Central Research Institute for Machine Building (TsNIIMash), said in 2016 that the flight model would be ready by 2022-2023.

It was also reported that the design of the power unit and the module would cost at least 17 billion rubles.

Experts deem the creation of nuclear-powered engines as a mandatory condition for near-Earth and deep-space missions and space exploration in the 21th century.

Nuclear power has been used in space missions before: the Soviet Union launched 32 spacecraft powered by a thermo-electric nuclear engine from 1970 till 1988, and a nuclear rocket engine was designed and tested at the Semipalatinsk testing range between 1960 and 1980.