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Russia’s Nuclear Power Plant For Its Space Tug To Be Called “Zeus”

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Russia's Nuclear Power Plant For Its Space Tug To Be Called "Zeus"

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The Russian orbital nuclear power plant will be named Zeus, said the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin.

“This year we opened the Nuclon development work. The device itself will be called Zeus, which we plan to receive in a few years and will be ready to use it in our scientific and other programs,” Rogozin said on the air of the Komsomolskaya true.”

On December 11, the head of Roscosmos announced that promising Russian ships and orbital stations could receive nuclear power plants.

“Without nuclear power in space, full-fledged exploration and exploration of deep space is impossible. This is our key to large-scale scientific missions to Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the planets of deep space. In addition, it could potentially even be a source for supplying energy to promising orbital systems and complexes.” Rogozin said.

As reported, Roskosmos signed a contract with the Avangard Design Bureau for the development of a preliminary design for the Nuclon complex with a nuclear power plant.

According to the government procurement portal, the contract was signed between Roscosmos and the Avangard design bureau. According to the contract, the work must be completed by November 15th, 2022. The sum of 4.17 billion rubles ($56.5 million) have been allocated for it.

It is noted that the space complex under development can be used to search for minerals on the Moon and explore other planets.

The development of a megawatt-class nuclear power plant started in 2010. It is planned to use it in an orbital tug designed to study the Moon and deep space. The development is carried out by the Keldysh Center, initially the completion of the installation was planned for 2015, and the first flight of the tugboat – for 2018, but the dates were postponed several times.

As reported in October, Roskosmos allocated almost 4.2 billion rubles for the development of a preliminary design of a space tug with a nuclear power plant Nuclon.

In September, the executive director of Roskosmos, Alexander Bloshenko, announced that the state corporation was working on a project for a reusable nuclear-powered space tug, Nuclon. According to him, the device will be able to fly from Venus to Jupiter in one mission, and the very first launch of the probe will become a full-fledged scientific mission.

“We want to make a flight to the Moon, and in the same mission after the Moon to fly around Venus with the delivery of a satellite to it to obtain scientific data, and further transit of this apparatus towards Jupiter’s satellites also with a certain payload,” Bloshenko said.

He said that the vehicle can be used as a tug to deliver payloads to distant points, and to power these loads.

As the first deputy head of Roscosmos, Yuri Urlichich, reported, prototypes of a nuclear power plant should be ready in 2025. The first flight of the “nuclear tug” is planned for the 2030s.

Nuclear power has already been used in space: in the period from 1970 to 1988, 32 spacecraft with a thermoelectric nuclear power plant were launched in the USSR, and in the period from 1960 to 1980 a nuclear rocket engine was developed and tested at the Semipalatinsk test site.

Russia’s nuclear tug, Nuklon, will be able to deliver 10 tons of cargo to the Moon in 200 days, according to documents from Roskosmos, published on the government procurement website.

Roskosmos earlier signed a contract worth RUB4.2 billion ($57m) for the development of a preliminary design of Nuklon for flights to the moon, Jupiter and Venus.

The contract between Roskosmos and the St Petersburg design bureau Arsenal for the “development of a preliminary design for the creation of a space system with a nuclear-based transport and energy module (TEM),” was signed on 10 December. Previously Roskosmos revealed some details about developing a spacecraft fitted with a nuclear power module that would serve as a “tug” that could also be used for exploration of the moon’s surface.

According to the requirements for the nuclear tug, it must ensure “the implementation of a transport operation as part of an orbital complex for the delivery of a payload module weighing up to 10,000 kilograms inclusive from the initial orbit (900km above the Earth’s surface) to the orbit as an artificial satellite of the moon for a period not exceeding 4800 hours (200 Earth days)”.

Corresponding member of Russia’s Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics, Andrei Ionin, told RIA Novosti that he did not see any special problems in such long delivery times. He said the cargo will be sent to the moon in advance, and their delivery by towing will be much cheaper than traditional space vehicles.

He added that systems for transporting people and goods should be separate as they are on Earth.

“People do not travel in freight cars, and coal is not transported in passenger cars. While in space, both cargo and people, by and large, are transported by practically the same space systems. People need to be delivered safely and fast. As for cargo, here, the economic efficiency of delivery is important. And you just need to deliver it on time.”

A nuclear reactor and economical ion thrusters will ensure low shipping costs, he said. As to  the delivery time, if some cargo needs to be delivered to the moon, for example, before the arrival of a manned spacecraft with a crew, then the cargo will just need to be towed 200 days before the start of the manned expedition. He drew comparisons with the Arctic, when goods are delivered to the Far North settlements once a year, but in large batches.

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