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Russian Space Nuclear Power Plant Modules

Russia’s current leadership is investing in long-term breakthrough technology projects for the country’s future. One of these projects is megawatt-class nuclear space power systems for spaceflight. This project is viewed as crucial if Russia wants to maintain a competitive edge in the space race. If successful, the project will lead to a whole range of challenging missions as illustrated in Fig. 1. Among those tasks are: cleaning Resident Space Objects (RSO); boosting heavy payloads to geostationary orbit (GEO); Lunar exploration; manned missions to Mars; missions to asteroids and comets, Lagrangian points, other solar system planets, and their moons, etc.

In particular, near the Earth, a MW (Mega Watt) power level nuclear power propulsion unit (NPPU), can serve as an Earth/Moon SAR/LIDAR.  A space vehicle with a NPPU can propel an inter-orbital tug, or be used for clearing orbital debris, as well as for diverting approaching asteroids from the Earth. The advanced propulsive ability of a NPPU can be useful for Lunar exploration: delivering the crew and cargo for a lunar base. Nuclear power units (NPU) can serve as a power plant for many applications.

For interplanetary missions, applications of NPPU with specific impulses of 6000-9000 s /2/ will make possible manned missions to Mars, a solar polar orbiter, exploration of the Jovian moons Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, Titan/Saturn sample return, Neptune/Triton probes, asteroid science, comet and Pluto rendezvous, interstellar probes as well as other missions within the solar system and beyond. /3/

This is why nuclear propulsion is expected to bring practical space exploration to a new level.

This report gives an update regarding the current status of the project. All information is from openly available material published in the media.