Encyclopedia Astronautica

Gerkules Nuclear Tug
Gerkules Nuclear Electric Interorbital Tug with 11B97 engine.
Credit: © Mark Wade
Russian space tug. Study 1992. ERTA (Elecktro-Raketniy Transportniy Apparat) was a nuclear-electric space tug designed to be boosted on medium boosters and provide both propulsion and electrical power for unmanned planetary probes.

In the 1990's Energia studied use of nuclear electric propulsion for the scientific development project 'Mars - Nuclear electric propulsion Stage' under contract to the Russian Space Agency and the project 'Star - Soarer' under contract to the Ministry of Atomic Industry. These studies looked at designs for the 2005 period. At the beginning of the 1990's a new type of nuclear generator was studied, that would have a capacity of 150 kW in the transport role and provide 10-40 kW to power spacecraft systems while coasting. This was designated ERTA (Elecktro-Raketniy Transportniy Apparat). Technologies and concepts for this engine were studied by FEI and other organizations. A modular concept was adopted. In 1994 ERTA was studied for launch by Titan, Ariane 5, or Energia-M launch vehicles. The reactor weight was 7,500 kg and it could provide up to 10 years of electrical power traded off against 1.5 years of powered flight.

Aside from this work on the 150 kW design, there was also an examination at the same time of the use of nuclear electric propulsion for Mars expeditions. Single and multiple launch approaches were considered. For a single-launch complex of 150 metric tons a nuclear electric propulsion unit of 5 to 10 MW with enough fuel for 1.5 years would be required. For the multiple launch design, a power of 1 to 1.5 MW and fuel for three years would be required.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Mars Expeditions Since Wernher von Braun first sketched out his Marsprojekt in 1946, a succession of designs and mission profiles were seriously studied in the United States and the Soviet Union. By the late 1960's Von Braun had come to favour nuclear thermal rocket powered expeditions, while his Soviet counterpart Korolev decided that nuclear electric propulsion was the way to go. All such work stopped in both countries in the 1970's, after the cancellation of the Apollo program in the United States and the N1 booster in the Soviet Union. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Titan American orbital launch vehicle. The Titan launch vehicle family was developed by the United States Air Force to meet its medium lift requirements in the 1960's. The designs finally put into production were derived from the Titan II ICBM. Titan outlived the competing NASA Saturn I launch vehicle and the Space Shuttle for military launches. It was finally replaced by the USAF's EELV boosters, the Atlas V and Delta IV. Although conceived as a low-cost, quick-reaction system, Titan was not successful as a commercial launch vehicle. Air Force requirements growth over the years drove its costs up - the Ariane using similar technology provided lower-cost access to space. More...
  • Ariane French orbital launch vehicle. First successful European commercial launch vehicle, developed from L3S Europa launch vehicle replacement design. Development of the Ariane 1 was authorised in July 1973, took eight years, and cost 2 billion 1986 Euros. More...
  • Energia The Energia-Buran Reusable Space System (MKS) began development in 1976 as a Soviet booster that would exceed the capabilities of the US shuttle system. Following extended development, Energia made two successful flights in 1987-1988. But the Soviet Union was crumbling, and the ambitious plans to build an orbiting defense shield, to renew the ozone layer, dispose of nuclear waste, illuminate polar cities, colonize the moon and Mars, were not to be. Funding dried up and the Energia-Buran program completely disappeared from the government's budget after 1993. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Korolev Russian manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Korolev Design Bureau, Kaliningrad, Russia. More...

  • Semenov, Yu. P., S P Korolev Space Corporation Energia, RKK Energia, 1994.

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use