Russian nuclear rocket engine aims for the ultimate reusability

One of the keys to making space travel between planets more achievable is to make rockets more powerful and reusable. A rocket that can be reused makes space mission of all sorts cheaper. SpaceX has done a good job with this for its Falcon rockets and the Falcon Heavy that it plans to launch in 2020 with its first government payload aboard. While SpaceX and others are using current technology for their rocket engines, a Russian research group claims to have created a rocket engine that uses new tech.

The new tech involved something old, namely nuclear power in space. Both NASA and the USSR put satellites and spacecraft into space decades ago with nuclear power. Past descriptions of the Russian nuclear-powered rocket describe it as a gas-cooled fission reactor that powers a generator, which in turn powers a plasma thruster.

The design of the nuclear rocket is meant to be the ultimate in reusability. Scientist Vladimir Koshlakov, head of the Keldysh Research Center in Moscow, said that reusability is the top priority. He says that the motor was designed with a goal of needing no fine-tuning or repair more than once every ten flights.

Another major cola was to have the rocket ready to fly again within 48-hours of landing. Koshlakov says he is unconcerned with being beaten to Mars by SpaceX because Musk and his comaoyn took an existing solution and adapted it.

The scientist is coy on when the nuclear engine will be ready for operation. The vide of the engine posted to Facebook, seen above, shows a computer simulation of the new engine.