Moscow. 5th of April. INTERFAX.RU - The State Scientific Center of the Russian Federation "Research Center named after M.V. Keldysh" (part of Roskosmos) is currently developing and testing ion engines for a space nuclear tug, said Vladimir Koshlakov, director general of the organization.
"We have carried out a full cycle of their development (ion engines - IF) to use them as part of a nuclear tug that our country is creating," Koshlakov told reporters on Wednesday.
According to him, these engines are distinguished by high specific characteristics, so it is advisable to use them for studying distant planets and missions.
He also said that individual elements for a nuclear tug are being tested, for example, a turbogenerator, where the thermal energy of a nuclear reactor is converted into electrical energy.
Earlier it was reported about the development of a space nuclear installation with a capacity of up to 1 megawatt. The project was named "Zeus". On May 22, 2021, Alexander Bloshenko, executive director of Roscosmos for advanced programs and science, announced that the first sample of the Zeus orbital nuclear installation would be ready by 2030.
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.
The ion propulsion is a type of electric rocket propulsion. The principle of operation of the engine is based on the creation of jet thrust based on ionized gas accelerated to high speeds in an electric field. Such engines have a significantly lower thrust compared to chemical ones, but they are distinguished by low fuel consumption and duration of operation - the period of continuous operation can be calculated for years.