The European Space Agency (ESA) has no immediate plans for cooperation with Russia in creating nuclear-powered spacecraft for future missions to Mars, but is considering using Russian experience and technology in its developments, the agency's head, Jean-Jacques Dorden, said on Monday.
ESA in cooperation with NASA is currently developing a major Mars exploration project, entitled ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars), which is due to launch in 2016. Nuclear-powered spaceships are believed to be the most efficient to carry out missions to Mars.
A spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said "there have been no agreements" between ESA and Roscosmos on cooperating in the creation of a nuclear-powered spacecraft.
Russia, as well as the United States, has been developing technology to produce nuclear-powered spacecraft for decades. Roscosmos director Anatoly Perminov has said the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial if Russia wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the moon and Mars.
Russia is planning to complete its nuclear engine design by 2012. The project's implementation will require 17 billion rubles ($600 million).
Roscosmos and NASA are planning to discuss the development of a nuclear-powered spaceship on Friday during talks in Moscow. Not only space powers, but also "countries with a high level of [nuclear] reactor manufacturing technology" will take part in the meeting, Perminov said.
MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti)