The information was revealed on May 22nd by the Russian space agency Roskosmos. Russia wants to send a nuclear space probe to Jupiter. But before that goal is achieved, the vehicle should pass the moon first and then Venus. Specifically, the idea is to use a “space tug” powered by nuclear power.
The power module of the machine called “Zeus” consists of a mini nuclear reactor of 500 kilowatts. For comparison: the output of a land-based nuclear reactor is around 900 megawatts on average. Despite this limited power, Zeus should still be able to propel a 22-ton satellite while traveling faster than a conventional rocket.
Estimated cost of nearly $ 57 million
According to the state news agency TASS, the space module mission is scheduled to take place by 2030. It should take about 50 months or a little more than four years. “We are now working with the Russian Academy of Sciences to perform ballistics and payload calculations for this flight,” said Alexander Bloshenko, Roscosmos executive director for long-term programs and science, quoted by Futurism. For its part, the Sputnik agency claims that the spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny base in Siberia on board the Angara A5V launcher.
“In January 2020, the Roscosmos agency announced its intention to test the first nuclear powered tug in 2030 and begin mass production shortly afterwards. The project is valued at 4.2 billion rubles ($ 57 million), ”report our colleagues at Space Daily.
Baikonur, Russia – 23.10.12: Manned rocket launch Baikonur / Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Migel Radriges
Ambitious space research projects
The announcement of this new project is further evidence of Russia’s interest in space exploration. As a reminder, the country is also aiming for its own orbital space station and is even planning to land a probe at the moon’s south pole by the end of the year.
The Zeus module, also known as the transport and energy module (TEM), has been in development for over ten years. A first full-size prototype was presented in 2019. Last year, the Russian space agency even shared a 3D animation showing the spacecraft in action in orbit.
A concept of a NASA nuclear missile. Photo credit: NASA
Move faster in space
Using a nuclear powered spacecraft could significantly reduce the time it takes to travel to space. According to the US space agency, a trip to Mars with current rockets could take about three years. With a nuclear powered device, it would only take nearly two years to make the same trip.
The mini nuclear reactor on board will not only provide a source of energy for the operation of the engines, but will also supply the electrical systems with electricity. As a result, the devices should also be able to be operated for a long time in areas protected from the sun. The Zeus reactor, for example, is expected to run for around 12 years. Note that NASA is also interested in using nuclear power in space. In particular, she is developing a nuclear power plant to be installed in space.
A prototype of a NASA nuclear missile. Image rights: NASA