Tag Archives: nuclear rocket engine

Russia to test components of nuclear engine on ISS

The competition heats up: Roscosmos is planning this week to award a research grant for test flying components on ISS of a nuclear rocket engine Russia has been developing since 2009.

The small amount of money, about $4 million, likely means this will not be a full scale model. Moreover, that this research grant is only being awarded now, seven years after the program began, suggests to me that work is going very slowly. While the delays might be technical, I suspect it is more likely because of the underlying corruption that percolates throughout the government-run Russian system. The project is being slow-walked, so that the funds will be available to the one Russian company that is doing the work for as long as possible.

Russia ends effort to build a nuclear-powered rocket engine

The competition cools down! The Russian government has decided to shut down its research project to build a nuclear rocket engine for interplanetary travel in space.

The article doesn’t give a reason, but I suspect Russia’s continuing economic problems is the source.

The idea of using nuclear power for propulsion in space has been around since the 1960s, and has shown great promise. It would provide far more power for less fuel than any existing engine. The U.S. unfortunately abandoned this research in the 1960s, partly because of the cut-backs after winning the space race and partly because of environmental protests that fear anything to do with nuclear. If the Russians had followed through, it would have given them an advantageous position in any competition to colonize the planets.