Feeds

Russia planning nuclear-powered manned spaceship

Reactor cruiser aimed at Moon, Mars missions

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Feeble chemical fuels and solar cells can never achieve serious travel beyond LEO

Solar cells can deliver useful amounts of power for ships in space or planetary landings, but almost all of the Moon suffers from two-week-long nights - and the possible iceberg rocket-fuel mines of the polar craters, a likely spot for Moon bases, are in permanent darkness. On Mars, further from the Sun than the Earth-Moon system, solar cells deliver less power and they are the main limiting factor on current rovers and landers there. Thus NASA's plans for the next Mars rover to be nuclear powered.

For all these reasons there are many in the space community who argue that travel beyond low Earth orbit will never become a serious activity without more powerful technologies than chemical fuels and solar cells. Nuclear power has already been used in space, mostly aboard radar spy satellites needing more juice than solar could supply (famously, some Russian ones with actual reactors aboard - not just radioisotope batteries - have cracked up on launch or ploughed uncontrolled back into the atmosphere).

Some have argued for actual nuclear rockets, where thermal energy is used to squirt reaction mass rather than generate 'leccy. Others contend that a better and more efficient method is to use electric power to run a plasma rocket. This might allow for heavier radiation shielding for astronauts or alternatively provide power for the possible magnetic shields of the future - and nuclear generators could power bases or probes on planets far from the sun, too.

Judging by the RIA Novosti report, Russia is leaning more toward the nuclear-electric options. Perminov's planned megawatt nuke spaceship will cost 17 billion rubles ($580m) by his estimates, and he says the design will be finalised in 2012.

That's not much money in the context of a NASA budget, but it's big bucks for Russia even in the gas-revenue era. There has to be a lot of doubt whether Roscosmos will get the funds. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.