Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Russian space chief proposes a nuclear spaceship

Russian space chief proposes a nuclear spaceship

Russia should build a new spaceship with a nuclear engine, the country's space chief proposed Wednesday, promising that would give Russia an edge in the space race.
President Dmitry Medvedev hailed the plan and ordered the Cabinet to find the money for it but environmentalists expressed concern.
Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov told a government meeting that the preliminary design could be ready by 2012. He said it would then take nine more years and 17 billion rubles ($600 million, 400 million euros) to build the ship.
"The implementation of this project will allow us to reach a new technological level surpassing foreign developments," Perminov told a meeting on communications and space technologies.
"It's a very serious project," said Medvedev, who chaired the meeting. "We need to find the money."
Perminov's ambitious statement contrasted with the current state of the Russian space program, sounding more like a plea for extra government funds than a detailed proposal.
Russia is using 40-year-old Soyuz booster rockets and capsules to send crews to the International Space Station. Development of a replacement rocket and a prospective spaceship with a conventional propellant has dragged on with no end in sight.
Perminov described the proposed spaceship as a "unique breakthrough project," but offered few details.
He said the ship will have a megawatt-class nuclear reactor, as opposed to small nuclear reactors that powered previous Soviet satellites. The Cold-War era Soviet spy satellites had reactors that produced just a few kilowatts of power and a lifespan of just about a year.
One of them, the derelict Cosmos-954 nuclear-powered satellite, scattered radioactive debris over northern Canada on its fiery re-entry in 1978, but caused no injuries in the lightly populated area.
But environmental activists warn the plan for a new nuclear-powered ship with a bigger reactor could be potentially hazardous.
"There has been some previous experience in using nuclear reactors in space, and it has been negative," said Vladimir Chuprov, a Greenpeace activist in Russia. "It's dangerous to put nuclear materials in space, they pose risks at re-entry."
Perminov didn't say what the new spaceship will be used for.
He and other officials have said that Russia needs a new spaceship to replace the old Soyuz for missions in Earth orbit, but they only have talked about a ship powered by a conventional rocket fuel so far.
The Russian space agency also has mulled over prospective missions to the moon and Mars but hasn't set a specific time frame for any of them yet.


Updated : 2021-05-15 12:22 GMT+08:00