Showing posts with label nuclear power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear power. Show all posts

Friday, 6 November 2009

Nuclear space tug

On the Roskosmos site is a “Presentation by A.S.Koroteev, Keldysh Center Director: ‘Significant Objectives of Space Exploration in the 21st Century’ ”, showing Powerpoint plans for a nuclear space tug (click the English flag in the top right corner).

New Russian Crew Vehicle Simulator will be Built in Three Years”, Roskosmos, 3/11.

Simulator of the new Russian crew vehicle Rus’ will be built in three years, Director of the Simulator Design Center Valentin Shukshunov says. The process can be started once draft design of the vehicle is completed. The simulator system will consist of 4 trainers intended to train diferrent exercises. Integrated simulator is the first one to be built, then there will come docking and vehicle control simulators. In other words, Shukshunov says, the simulator will appear earlier than the vehicle itself.

Via NK №817: the training simulator for the proposed “Rus” spaceship could be created 3 years after the design of the ship is completed – in 2013 – the director of the Flight Simulator Training Center (Центра тренажеростроения), Valentine Shukshunov, has said. A virtual model would be created first, then the training apparatus. The training complex would include at least 4 different apparatus, including a complete spaceship simulator, another for docking, and another for in-orbit flight. The simulator would be ready before the actual spaceship made its first flight. For 30 years of the history of the enterprise, only once has the training apparatus been created earlier than a spaceship’s launch into space, or a space station module has been sent into an orbit. This has been the case for the training apparatus of the small laboratory module (MIM-2). The training apparatus for it already operates, though the module is not sent yet into orbit.

Poisk Module: Brief Description”, Roskosmos, 4/11. Includes two computer images of MIM-2, though not translated into English yet.

Poisk, also known as the Mini-Research Module 2 (MRM 2), is a new Russian docking module of the International Space Station. Its original name was Docking Module 2 (Stykovochniy Otsek 2 [SO-2]), as it is almost identical to Pirs already on the station.

It will be added to the zenith port of the Zvezda module, and will serve as an additional docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and as an airlock for spacewalks. Poisk will also provide extra space for scientific experiments, and provide power-supply outlets and data-transmission interfaces for two external scientific payloads to be developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences. The mass of the module is 4,000 kg. It has a diameter of 2.6 m and length of 4.6, providing 12.5 cubic meters of internal volume.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Cosmonaut journal

Roskosmos seems to have taken inspiration from NASA and is (at long last!) hosting a journal by Maksim Suraev, now in orbit. It is currently only in Russian. [Also now in English at Russia Today]

Why does the Cosmos attract me?”, Russian Cosmos magazine, November 2009. An interview with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. He mentions Sergei Krikalyov as they both flew on STS-60 in 1994.

Progress M-MIM2/M-MRM2 («Прогресс М-МИМ2»), carrying the new module Poisk, «Поиск» (“Search”), is due to be launched on 10 November (the day after my birthday!). The Energiya site has a series of pre-launch preparation photos.

Russian president backs nuclear spaceship”,, 28/10. Russian officials said they wanted to build a nuclear-powered spaceship (the preliminary design ready by 2012, and 9 more years to build it), an announcement met with the usual skepticism (“Show me the money!”). I am not sure if the nuclear component is a reactor powering electrical propulsion engines, or an actual nuclear rocket propelling the ship. A diagram below, which illustrates the former version (from “Russian nuclear-powered spaceship” at the Orbiter Forum):

This entry at also mentions the proposal. According to another commentator:

It is basically the solar electric tug Energia proposed some years ago for a Mars mission, but they now replaced the huge solar power arrays by a nuclear reactor. The solar-powered version must have been too much in terms of required orbital assembly operations (mentioned in the following link), so they opted for the nuke.

Daniel Marin has an entry (in Spanish) at his blog – “Russian nuclear ships” – detailing various Russian developments for nuclear-powered space missions.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Space nukes

From NK №788:

12/06/2009 / 00:05 – Russia will create a nuclear tug for interplanetary travel

Russia will revive a program to develop nuclear power plants for space purposes, the director of the RRC Kurchatov Institute, Mikhail Kovalchuk, said at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday.

“We need to create an atomic tug,” Kovalchuk said, recalling that in Soviet times there was a program to develop nuclear power plants; in particular the “Topaz” reactor was designed by the Kurchatov Institute.

“Using an atomic tug, you can save money for the future Russian lunar and Mars programs,” said the head of the institute. “This is a cheap way.”

According to him, the program was discussed with the management of RSC Energia, and a number of other space and nuclear institutions.

“We will reanimate these topics. We consider it as possibility to create not only engines, but also as energy sources (for spaceships).”

The Topaz reactor featured in Stephen Baxter’s Titan novel as a power source for the Space Shuttle on its mission to Saturn.

Energiya has another news report featuring ISS crews familiarizing themselves with the MIM-2 module, the next Russian module to be launched. A Buran – defunct Russian space shuttle – analog can be seen in the background of this photo. (It is the 3M [or OK-KS] full-size test model as seen on this page at Vassili’s Buran site, according to Anik.)

Monday, 12 November 2007

Russian Mars plans

“The appeal of Mars”, RIA Novosti: Parts 1, 2, 3. A series by Yuri Zaitsev concerning Russian plans for Mars missions.

Ex-Energiya president Nikolai Sevastyanov believes the Martian project could be realized after 2025 and would consist of three stages: a trial expedition around the Moon, a non-landing manned expedition to Mars and then a manned Mars landing. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos), said: “We are planning a Mars mission after 2035.” The ultimate decision is likely to be made at the top. Before the year is out the government must approve a program for the development of the space industry until 2040.


Technically speaking, a manned mission to Mars would be no more difficult than a flight to the Moon. Experts believe that the hardware required for reaching the Red Planet is largely already available. But it is the human element that is both the most important, and the most vulnerable, part of the mission. Before sending astronauts to Mars, scientists will have to solve the numerous medical and biological problems associated with deep space flight.


U.S. experts estimate the cost of a manned mission to Mars at $500 billion. Russia believes it can place cosmonauts on the planet’s surface in the next 12 years for just $14 billion, a sum roughly equivalent to 10 national space programs. However, this would entail a doubling of federal space spending and the launch of several unmanned reconnaissance probes to explore Mars in greater detail. Nikolai Anfimov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director General of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash), believes the total cost of the manned Mars mission would run to over $100 billion.

2025 or later is much too far away! How about…2015? I reckon a simple mission could be done for…under $10 billion? A test mission around Mars (but not landing on it) could be done for maybe $3 billion or so:

  • A crew of two (possibly suicidal!) cosmonauts who don’t mind the possibility of long-term damage to their health, or dying – the tradeoff is they would be forever remembered in history (first humans to leave the Earth-Moon system!).
  • Mission profile based on the one at Energiya (12 months to Mars, 1 month around/on Mars, 11 months back).
  • Spaceship based on the Russian ISS modules with a nuclear reactor (of the Topaz-2 type) that provides power for the engines (rather than the huge solar array in the Energiya plan). There would be no means of artificial gravity (designing this would incur extra expense).
  • Progress launches to bring up supplies (don’t know how many would be needed).
  • Soyuz spaceship used to fly crew up to the interplanetary spacecraft, and later back to Earth (need to have a 2-year lifespan).
  • A small automated probe could be used to retrieve Mars surface samples.
  • Developing a Mars lander would add extra time to the mission preparations.
  • Upcoming Mars launch windows (low-energy type): December 2009, February 2012.

My bargain-basement Mars mission! So, build a spaceship and go! Enough with the fussing around – after 40 years or so of spaceflight we know the effects of weightlessness on mental and physical health, so how many more studies do they need? Accept that there will be risk to the crew, and just go. (Yes, I am impatient.)

More articles of interest:

“Protecting Earth Against Asteroids”, Part 1 & 2, Space Daily. Russian ideas for trying to deflect threatening asteroids.

Does Russia Have A Nuclear Engine Advantage?”, Space Daily, 5/11.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Nukes in space and other news

Andrei Kislyakov opinion pieces:

Two-part article on “Nuclear Power in Space” by Yurii Zaitsev: Part 1 (RIAN/SpaceDaily, 13/8) and Part 2 (RIAN/SpaceDaily, 15/8). For an interplanetary mission (e.g. to Mars) a small nuclear reactor would provide a more efficient power source than solar panels (which are increasingly ineffective the further away from the Sun a spaceship gets). Russia developed a unit called “Topaz” during the Soviet era, which has been flown in space on satellites. (I first saw mention of the Topaz in the Stephen Baxter novel Titan).

Unfortunately, with current technology only nuclear fission (splitting an atom) is used with its unpleasant side-effects of radiation; fusion (combining atoms) would be ideal. There is also the environmental problem of how to bring a reactor back to Earth!

  • Obsolete space industry”, Space Daily, 15/8: Andrei Kislyakov opinion piece.

    For Russia, the ISS is all that is left of its once stupendous manned program. Its loss would shake the industry to its foundations. But the question arises: If Russia is to stay on, which is beyond discussion, then what is to be done and, most importantly, how?

  • FP Space posting: “Soyuz/Progress upgrades”, 20/8. Summary of a Novosti Kosmonavtiki article about planned upgrades to the spacecraft.
  • Bold New Projects Critical To Future Of Russian Space Exploration”, Space Daily, 20/8. Interview with former Energiya president Nikolai Sevast’yanov.
  • “Russian, European Space Agencies To Develop Manned Spaceship”, RIAN/Space Daily, 22/8. Announcement at the MAKS-2007 Airshow.
  • “Russian space agency to form three space holdings by 2015”, RIAN/Space Daily, 22/8.
  • 50th Aniversary Of The Russian ICBM Rocket”, Space Daily, 23/8.
  • “Mars-500 Experiment Could Be Extended To 700 Days”, RIAN/Space Daily, 23/8. Pity this can’t be a real mission, even just one going around Mars (not landing on it).
  • “Russia’s space guru opts for evolution”, RIAN/Space Daily, 23/8. Andrei Kislyakov on the dismayingly limited plans for Russia’s space program – just upgrade some old designs.

And why can’t the Russian space program do something similar to this: “NASA and Internet Archive Team to Digitize Space Imagery”, SpaceRef, 23/8. There must be a lot of things in the Russian archives that the public hasn’t seen; it would be a great way of getting their attention.