A space tug, equipped with a megawatt class nuclear engine is scheduled to be launched in 2030, according to a presentation by Roscosmos First Deputy Director General Yuri Urlichich, displayed at the 44th Korolev Academic Space Conference.
"The launch of a nuclear-powered spacecraft, and flight tests (2030)," the presentation reads. After 2030, the nuclear-propelled space vehicle must enter serial production and commercial use, it says.
Before the end of 2030, a testing and experimenting facility must be built, and the future nuclear engine must be perfected on the ground, including conducting resource tests, the presentation revealed.
The mock-up engine test for the nuclear space tug is scheduled for 2020, a state procurement website said earlier.
Initially, Rosatom planned to build a test megawatt nuclear propulsion engine for distant space travel by 2018. The engine was supposed to be installed on a spacecraft, codenamed "transport energy module." The work commenced in 2009.
This is not the first time Russia has turned to atomic energy for space exploration. Between 1970 and 1988, the USSR launched 32 spacecraft powered by thermoelectric nuclear energy units. Earlier, between 1960 and 1980, a nuclear propulsion engine was developed and tested at the Semipalatinsk test site.