The ROSATOM or the Russian State Atomic Energy is one of the big players in the space administration even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and its Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is one of the largest shuttle launch stations in the world. Recently, it has come up with a unique idea that may transform the way we travel in space; It is the development of a nuclear space engine that could take manned or unmanned probes far away into deep space that nobody has been able to go due to a lack of propulsion.
The new engine is expected to be completed by 2018, and the agency claims that it will run on thermal fission which is quite futuristic and straight from science fiction itself. So are we looking at nuclear energy being used which could lead to fusion energy and then perhaps antimatter fuel? I must not get ahead of myself! So, this latest reactor-based engine would be the same as the ones on Earth in principle, but it won’t be providing a constant source of kinetic energy to the turbines here. In this scenario, we will need it to provide thrust and powerful one at that to be able to get outside the gravitational pull of the Eath itself, or we are looking at a nuclear reactor crashing back towards the Earth and probably exploding while it is still in the atmosphere itself.
So far, not much detail is available on this ambitious project. The Russians believe they will be able to develop a craft like this by the end of 2018. Let’s hope they aren’t rushing into this because of the concerns mentioned above. NASA has previously experimented with such an engine as part of its Mars program but hasn’t been able to deliver because of extreme dangers of meltdown associated with such an engine. Perhaps Rosatom has found a solution, and they probably would never share it with the NASA at any cost.