Cosmonauts Will Fly Between Russian Space Station, Zeus Tug Aboard Piloted Craft, Roscosmos Reveals
13:06 GMT 04.07.2022 (Updated: 16:58 GMT 12.04.2023)
© Photo : RoscosmosRender of Zeus space tug.
© Photo : Roscosmos
The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) first showed off the preliminary design of its prospective Zeus nuclear-powered space tug last year. If all goes to plan, the spacecraft’s design will be completed by 2024, and it will kick off its first autonomous mission in 2030.
Cosmonauts will fly between the new Russian space station and the Zeus space tug aboard a separate pilotable craft to oversee construction, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin has indicated.
“The new station will operate at an orbit from which the crew will be able to visit our nuclear space tug Zeus with their manned aircraft to control the deployment of all of its key components and structures –first and foremost, its giant radiators to dump excess heat – until the reactor is turned on in a safe orbit 800 km away,” Rogozin wrote in a post on his Telegram channel Monday, summarizing a weekend meeting he’d had with chief orbital manned systems general designer Vladimir Solovyov and Igor Khamits, designer of the prospective Oryol spacecraft.
“It should finally be recognized that long-distance flights by human beings into outer space are impossible using current chemical propulsion engines. Their power and fuel reserves will not be sufficient not only to return a manned mission home, but even to ensure the initial stages of the flight. That is why it is necessary to find a solution on how to safely connect an orbital manned station to a nuclear tug,” Rogozin mused.
The Roscosmos chief emphasized that “only the growing power of a nuclear space tug is capable of moving a manned station in low earth orbit to high orbits and to deep space,” and noted that nuclear energy has the potential to move humanity toward a “fundamentally new direction in manned cosmonautics.”
Rogozin also revealed that Russia’s new space station, which will be situated in a more radiation-intensive polar orbit, will require technologies cosmonauts will need in the future for flights to other planets in our solar system, including the associated life support systems, and arrangements for the provision of food, water and fuel without the need for these to be delivered by cargo ships from Earth.
Rogozin accompanied his post with rendered images of the prospective Russian space station – known as the Russia Orbital Service Station (ROSS), as well as a concept drawing of the Zeus space tug.
The preliminary design of the ROSS station is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2023, after which design documentation will hopefully start. Pending an absence of delays, Roscosmos hopes for initial construction to begin in 2026, and for up to seven modules to be built by 2035. The ROSS will be Russia’s first space station since the Mir (lit. ‘Peace’ or ‘World’) which was built by the Soviets in the 1980s and deliberately deorbited by Roscosmos in 2001.
If all goes to plan, the Zeus will be completed in 2030, and begin a 50 month-long mission to Venus and the moons of Jupiter.
The ideas of a nuclear-powered space tug spacecraft has been around in science fiction since at least the early 1950s, with practical applications envisioned by the Soviet space program and NASA beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. Soviet scientists proposed a detailed outline of a nuclear propulsion system to carry cosmonauts to Mars back in the 1980s.
23 September 2021, 13:18 GMT