Feeds

Russia planning nuclear-powered manned spaceship

Reactor cruiser aimed at Moon, Mars missions

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Russian space chiefs are considering plans for a manned spacecraft with a nuclear powerplant aboard, according to reports. Indications are that the nuclear kit would provide electrical power rather than being used directly for propulsion.

RIA Novosti reports that Anatoly Perminov, chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, revealed the scheme at a meeting yesterday. Reportedly Perminov specifically mentioned Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS), which would normally refer to "an appropriate nuclear reactor heat source" generating electrical power aboard a spacecraft by one of several conversion methods (massive old NASA pdf here).

The report says that the Roscosmos boss mentioned MCNSPS specifically in the context of "implementing large-scale space exploration programs". His fellow Russian space bigwig Anatoly Koroteyev had earlier stated that the key issue with manned missions to the Moon and Mars was "development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency".

Spacecraft today are typically propelled by chemically-fuelled rockets and powered by solar panels (or sometimes fuel cells for short-duration missions). Chemical rockets in particular tend to require so much fuel to accomplish anything that very little actual payload can be carried, especially in the case of return trips beyond Earth orbit.

Any chemically-powered manned mission to Mars would have to coast almost all the way there and back, taking six months each way. Aboard a typical lightweight spacecraft - the only sort that feeble chemical rockets can propel - this would be quite likely to mean astronauts dying of cosmic radiation sickness. Magnetic shielding is a possibility, but this would probably be a serious power drain.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.