Russia toys with exotic nuclear space projects
MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is pondering new applications for yet-to-be-built nuclear-powered spacecraft, including military satellites, nuclear power plants, and space tugs, Energia space corporation said Wednesday.
Energia director Vitaly Lopota said a prospective all-weather space and Earth monitoring target-designation satellite would ensure Russia's superiority in the course of possible armed conflicts.
He said the work was currently at the concept formulation stage and offered no timeframe for the project to be completed.
The corporation is also ready to design a space-based nuclear power station with a capacity of 150 to 500 KW with a service life of 10-15 years, to be initially placed on the moon or Mars.
Another prospective project, Lopota said, is a heavy space platform that would replace several telecommunication satellites, complete with a standalone nuclear power plant, rocket engines and advanced communication antennas.
Such a platform would have a mass of around 20 tons, a service life of 10-15 years and could be built by 2018.
Energia is also working on a concept of a nuclear-powered space tug, which could more than halve satellite launching and orbiting costs.
Russia has yet to build a spaceship with a nuclear engine. The government has said it will allocate 500 million rubles ($16.7 million) for the project this year.
Federal Space Agency Roscosmos director Anatoly Perminov previously said the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial if Russia wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the moon and Mars.
Perminov said the draft design of a spacecraft with a nuclear-powered propulsion system would be finalized by 2012, and the financing for further development over the next nine years would require an investment of at least 17 billion rubles (over $580 million).
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