Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fifty years late and the Russians are the ones doing it, but otherwise...

That was fortuitous timing. We just ran a post on Willy Ley (circa 1959) discussing the possibility of using nuclear powered rockets for space exploration. Now we get thee following announcement.
Speaking with reporters, Vladimir Koshlakov explained that Elon Musk and SpaceX pose no real threat to the group’s plans. Musk, Koshlakov says, is relying on technology that will soon be antiquated, while Russia is looking towards shaping the future of spaceflight.

The Russian researchers say that their nuclear-powered rocket platform will be able to make it to Mars seven months after launch, and that its reusable rocket stages can be put back into service after just 48 hours.

“Reusability is the priority,” Koshlakov reportedly said. “We must develop engines that do not need to be fine-tuned or repaired more than once every ten flights. Also, 48 hours after the rocket returns from space, it must be ready to go again. This is what the market demands.”


“Elon Musk is using the existing tech, developed a long time ago,” he noted. “He is a businessman: he took a solution that was already there, and applied it successfully. Notably, he is also doing his work with help from the government.”

That last paragraph is a bit of Musk-trolling but it's consistent with a point I've heard repeatedly from engineers in the field. While SpaceX has made some serious advances, the underlying tech is decades-old, dating back at least to the lunar lander.

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