Russia Reveals Plans for a Manned, Nuclear-Powered Rocket Capable of Interstellar Flight

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 - 12:41PM
Technology
Space
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 - 12:41PM
Russia Reveals Plans for a Manned, Nuclear-Powered Rocket Capable of Interstellar Flight
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Aside from the US and China, Russia has established itself as one of the biggest players in the new space race, despite some recent trouble with their Soyuz rockets. They've already announced plans to build a permanent Moon base populated by robotic avatars, and now Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has revealed plans to create a nuclear-powered rocket capable of interstellar flight.

If you're wondering why space agencies aren't scrambling to colonize one of the more promising exoplanets (out of the several thousand discovered so far), the answer is threefold: mass, energy, and time. Sure, Breakthrough Starshot may be able to propel a small fleet of probes to reach 1/5th the speed of light, but each of those probes is going to weigh about the same as a thimble full of water, and it'll still take them decades to reach Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System. If you tried to do the same with a multi-ton spacecraft carrying human passengers, you'd either need an incredibly powerful propulsion system or enough patience to last several decades at least.

Russia has opted to build the incredibly powerful propulsion system. You can see a virtual model of what it might look like below.



According to Vladimir Koshlakov, the director of Keldysh Research Centre in Russia, which is designing the rocket: "Our engines can be the foundation for a whole range of space missions that currently seem like science fiction." He also said that it "will surpass existing level of technological and scientific development."

When asked whether Elon Musk's company SpaceX might be able to compete with the new design, Koshlakov said "Elon Musk is using the existing tech, developed a long time ago. He is a businessman: he took a solution that was already there, and applied it successfully."

There have been no details yet about when the rocket will be completed, but Keldysh has been working on the designs since at least 2009.
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