Russia plans to launch a nuclear-powered spacecraft that can travel from the moon to Jupiter – TTG

“Russia is planning to send a nuclear-powered spacecraft to the moon, then Venus, then Jupiter. Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency, announced Saturday that its “space tug” — the term for a spacecraft that transports astronauts or equipment from one orbit to another —  is scheduled to launch on an interplanetary mission in 2030. The spacecraft’s energy module, named “Zeus,” is designed to generate enough power to propel heavy cargo through deep space. It’s essentially a mobile nuclear-power plant.”

“Several countries have their eyes on similar technology as a way to shorten trips in space. Right now, spacecraft rely on solar power or gravity to accelerate. But that means it could take more than three years for astronauts to conduct a round-trip visit to Mars. NASA estimates that a nuclear-powered spacecraft could shave a year off that timeline.”

“The mission plan calls for the spacecraft to approach the moon first, then head toward Venus, where it can use the planet’s gravity to shift directions toward its final destination, Jupiter. That would help conserve propellant.  The entire mission would last 50 months (a little over four years), according to Alexander Bloshenko, Roscosmos’ executive director for long-term programs and science. During a presentation in Moscow on Saturday, Bloshenko said Roscosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences are still working to calculate the flight’s ballistics, or trajectory, as well as the amount of weight it can carry.”

Comment: From the Business Insider article, I can’t tell whether this nuclear powered rocket will launch from Earth or be assembled in orbit and then sent on its interplanetary journey. The Russianspaceweb article details how the craft will be constructed and deployed. Its nuclear engine will not be started until it is safely in Earth orbit. Roscosmos and KB Arsenal already have a lot of experience in nuclear spacecraft. NASA is also looking into nuclear powered spaceflight for manned missions to Mars and beyond.

I am reminded of the plans developed by the astrophysicist Freeman Dyson to build starships powered by nuclear explosions. This is all detailed in the wonderful book “The Starship and the Canoe” by Kenneth Browder. It’s a biography of Freeman and his son, George Dyson, who dropped out of school to live in a tree house high atop a Douglas fir in British Columbia. George designed and built a massive kayak in the Aleutian bidarka style. An excellent read.

I read the book after my youngest brother visited a couple of years ago. He’s the one who cleared his own land, harvested his own timber, milled his own lumber and built his own post and beam house at the foot of the White Mountains. He took a course in kayak construction, but chose not to buy the frame he built. He preferred to cut his own lumber for his kayak.


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16 Responses to Russia plans to launch a nuclear-powered spacecraft that can travel from the moon to Jupiter – TTG

  1. Jose says:

    TTG, sling shots trajectories are common in space missions due to our technological limitations and frankly lack of vision.

    ION pulse engines have been proposed, but never developed again by lack of vision.

    This a project that really has vision, but nobody has the balls to attempt:

    Hopefully, the Russians can send probes to see if the Phosphine readings are a result of contamination by their Venera Probe…lol

  2. Pat Lang says:


    Which end is which?

    • TTG says:

      Damned good question. I’ve found the video from KB Arsenal which shows the tug deploying, the reactor at the pointy end starting up and the ion thrusters on the cubic module starting up. The tug appears to lead with the reactor. The payloads must be attached near the ion propulsion unit. The illustration above is from the early stages of deployment. This article has photos of the craft under construction by KB Arsenal and the video. There is a photo of the cubic ion thruster unit surrounded by technicians which will give you an idea of the true size of the tug.

  3. walrus says:

    A space tug mission to Jupiter? The ship can only be named Nostromo.

    ….and insured by Lloyds.

  4. Leith says:

    Name it ‘Goliath’ after A. C. Clark’s 3001 space tug that found the freeze dried body of the astronaut killed by HAL 9000 in 2001.

  5. morongobill says:

    TTG, does your younger brother have a website or YouTube channel? His story is prime for that or a book! Thanks for this article also.

    • TTG says:

      He doesn’t have the time or bandwidth for that stuff. He can’t get cable, FIOS or DSL. His internet connection is through a radio shot to a mountain top antenna which is then cabled back down to the valley and eventually to a local internet provider. He’s a teacher and he taught his class remotely last year through that connection.

      • Cortes says:

        Your brother sounds like a modern Renaissance Man. Here’s another, Russian lawyer and polymath Max Egorov, with his lightweight kayak design:

        Like morongobill, I thank you for your article.

        • TTG says:

          I really like the simple elegance of Max Egrov’s kayak design. Thanks for the link.

          In addition to my teacher/housewright brother, another brother is a self-employed logger/forest management guy. Another is a tool and die maker who started his one man machine repair company repairing and refurbishing heavy machinery up and down the east coast. Even my sister is fully capable in farm and factory environments. We all know how to build and fix stuff and are comfortable in the wilderness.

  6. Leith says:

    Nice CGI video here:

    The weak spot would appear to be the telescoping latticework structure that holds together all the critical parts. Although I confess I have no idea of the stresses it will be subjected to as it extends itself, or later during the flight.

  7. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    I remember writing a research paper for a high school class on nuclear space propulsion. That’d be back in the mid to late 1960s.

    I think it was some sort of ion propulsion system that would provide gentle, but constant thrust, ultimately yielding a very high velocity. Seemed like a pretty good idea to me back then, and it was disappointing that it was not further developed, as it seemed likely that such a system could get humanity out into the asteroid belt to hopefully access some valuable mineral ores, or who knows what. I obtained some literature from NASA in the course of my research if I recall correctly. I’ll have to look if I saved that paper and materials used for research.

    I see that Jeff Bezos is all butthurt that Elon Musk won the contract for a lunar landing mission, so he’s enlisted the help of Senator Cantwell, in whose state Blue Origin is based, to get Congress’ help to overide or – why not, since the Feral goverment is giving away money – duplicate the contract.

    The picture of Bezos posted in the WT (a/k/a Bezos’ Blog) reminds me ever so much of Dr. Evil; all it needs is for him to be biting his pinkie finger, and stroking a white Persian cat. To Bernie Sanders’ credit, he sez no way that we should be giving this plutocrat money.

    In further Amazon newz, they are negotiating to buy MetroGoldmanMayer, and all of their back catalog. Can’t wait to see them withdraw the original Gone With the Wind in favor of a Woke! remake in which Scarlett O’Hara rats out Rhett Butler as a blockade runner, torches Atlanta all by herself out of shame for her White Privilege, and shacks up with a former black slave ‘cuz it’s Reparations Time.

  8. TTG says:

    Yes, the 60s were the heydays for NASA and space exploration. I had all kinds of books and models from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I would play around with gravity equations to “design” rockets along with solar sailing ships which I know I wrote about a while back.

    So far the talk about Bezos buying MGM is when the outtakes from Trump on The Apprentice will become public. Another distraction. They won’t reveal anything about him that we don’t already know.

  9. aka says:

    I wish NASA and Musk would seriously consider the nuclear options.
    For me, that is the future, whether it will be propulsion or electric power.
    Solar is good, but once you go away, it is not prudent to rely on solar panels for power.
    And on mars, you have less solar potential as well as the chance for yearly dust storms.

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