Russia designs satellites and orbital stations based on nuclear-powered tug technology

24 May 2021

Russia's state space agency Roscosmos on 22 May presented the design of future satellites and orbital stations equipped with space nuclear-powered tug technology at the New Knowledge forum in Moscow.

Alexander Bloshenko, Roscosmos executive director for advanced programmes and science, presented two images of future spacecraft with the Zeus nuclear-powered tug, one with rotary magneto-plasma engines, and one with ion engines. The nuclear-powered tug, also known as the Transport and Energy Module (TEM), has been in development since 2010 in Russia. The first prototype for a full-scale TEM vehicle was revealed in 2019, while a 3D animation of its deployment in orbit was shown in 2020.

A satellite with a 500kW nuclear reactor weighing up to 22 tons is expected to be launched from the Vostochny spaceport on board the Angara-A5V heavy rocket with the Fregat upper stage. Roscosmos also demonstrated designs for an orbital station with two modules equipped with Zeus technology. Russia's next-generation Orel crewed spaceship and reusable rockets will be able to dock with the station.

The first mission of a spacecraft with a nuclear-powered tug, scheduled for 2030, will include flight to the moon, then to Venus, then to Jupiter. The total duration of the mission is expected to be 50 months. In January 2020, Roscosmos announced its plans to launch the first nuclear-powered tug for testing in 2030 and begin its mass production soon after. The project is estimated at RUB4.2 billion ($57 million).

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