Artist’s conception of a nuclear thermal rocket for interplanetary missions (Credits: Pat Rawlings for NASA)

According to press agency RIA Novosti, Russia is developing a Megawatt-class nuclear propulsion system for long-range manned spacecraft. “At present we are testing several types of fuel,” said Denis Kovalevich, Skolkovo Foundation’s Nuclear Cluster head, “the engine is expected to be ready by 2017.”

The source reports a government allocation of 500 million rubles ($16.7 million) in 2010 to start a project of a nuclear powered spacecraft, with a projected total investment of about 17 billion rubles (over $580 million) by 2019.

The engine will be used for interplanetary manned missions targeted to the Moon and Mars. A recently leaked document from Russian space agency drafted an ambitious plan for planetary exploration, both manned and unmanned.

Nuclear power is generally considered a promising technology for interplanetary exploration, especially beyond Earth’s orbit, where solar power gets weak. NASA has been trying to promote nuclear propulsion several times, including a project in 2003, but funding was eventually cut down.

In the video below, a review of project Orion, the most ambitious nuclear propulsion project developed by US.

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About the author

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.