Ivan Cheberko

Izvestia, August 31, 2016, p. 1

Design bureau Arsenal from the system of Roscosmos proposed the Defense Ministry to create an orbital cluster of spacecraft with electronic warfare means equipped with a nuclear power plant.


Design bureau Arsenal from the system of Roscosmos proposed the Defense Ministry to create an orbital cluster of spacecraft with electronic warfare means equipped with a nuclear power plant (NPP). The proposal is outlined in the annual collection of documents “Electronic warfare in the Armed Forces of Russia” where specialized enterprises formulate their ideas for the Defense Ministry.

The collection of documents says, “Arsenal is working on creation of universal transport and energy modules (TEM) of increased energy capacity with NPP. Use of such TEM is especially important in the interests of fulfillment of electronic warfare tasks in outer space and from outer space that require high levels of power of interference transmitters and hence significant onboard energy. Presence of NPP allows putting of high-potential broadband transmitters of radio interferences on boar of the spacecraft and using of geo-synchronized and high-elliptical orbits for radio electronic suppression for the purpose of uninterrupted suppression of radio electronic means on big areas and in a broad band of frequencies.”

Design bureau Arsenal is currently conducting project and research work on creation of TEM with thermal emission power plants of two types: with capacity of 30 kW and 50 kW.

The proposal of Arsenal says, “TEM are developed taking into account use of payloads in the interests of fulfillment of tasks of radio electronic suppression that imply presence of transformed parabolic antenna systems within the payload module. Presence of such platform and, as a consequence, increases of energy capacity of the satellite allows raising the issue of creation of a really working space segment of electronic warfare on the basis of radio electronic suppression spacecraft with NPP.”

General Director of Arsenal Alexander Milkovsky announced that should the military officials be interested in the proposal of Arsenal the company would be ready to fulfill the project. Milkovsky stresses that Arsenal has the richest experience in creation of spacecraft with NPP.

Since 1973 until 1988, Arsenal built more than 30 spacecraft with NPP for maritime space reconnaissance and target indication system Legenda.

Since then, Russian industry took a pause in the matter of creation of spacecraft with NPP> Along with this, the topic was not closed completely. Thus, in February of 1998 the government issued a resolution that approved “Concept for development of space nuclear energy in Russia” that determined priorities in the form of development of basic standardized designs, blocks, thermal emission reactor-transformers for spacecraft. In the framework of this concept Arsenal conducted project and research work on creation of universal space platform Plasma-2010 with a multi-mode thermal emission power plant with capacity of up to 100 kW (this almost corresponds to energy capacity of the International Space Station (110 kW) that is provided by work of solar batteries with area of 17×70 meters).

In 2010, Russia started working on creation of NPP of megawatt class because the topic of flights to the Moon and Mars appeared then again. Enterprises promise to present the first space-based NPP of megawatt class by 2018 and it is planned to deliver an experimental spacecraft with it to orbit in 2025.

According to a source in the military industrial complex, the experimental spacecraft of Arsenal with NPP may be delivered to orbit by 2020.

Milkovsky did not confirm this information.

Ivan Moiseev, senior research fellow of the institute of space policy, reported:

– In the Soviet period series production of satellites with NPP was established for a certain task: radar systems required much energy and they were powered due to NPP. Electronic countermeasures systems with nuclear power plants are not prohibited by any laws but it is necessary to understand that their use is possible only in wartime. That is why in this case it is necessary to make a political decision if we need to station such means in outer space. It is also necessary to take into account experience of use of satellites with NPP that we have already had. Not everything went smoothly there and they sometimes fell on the Earth.

Incidents with Soviet satellites with NPP did not happen very often. The best known accident happened in 1978 when Cosmos-954 spacecraft with NPP entered the atmosphere and got destroyed having scattered thousands of radioactive fragments on a territory of 100,000 square kilometers in the northwestern regions of Canada. The Soviet Union paid monetary compensation bigger than $10 million to Canada then.

Director of the information support group of the Space Forces of the Airspace Forces Alexei Zolotukhin was not available for comments.