Encyclopedia Astronautica
Interorbital Tug


Electric/Xenon propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 65,700/15,700 kg. Thrust 0.03 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 3000 seconds. Beginning in 1978 the 11B97 nuclear electric engine was studied for use in a reusable interorbital space tug for launch by Energia-Buran. In 1982, according to the decree of 5 February 1981, NPO Energia developed for the Ministry of Defence the interorbital tug Gerkules with 550 kWt maximum output and continuous operation in the 50-150 kWt range for 3 to 5 years. In 1986 a civilian interorbital tug was studied to solve the specific application of transporting heavy satellites of 100 tonnes to geostationary orbit, launched by Energia.

All of these designs seem to have been essentailly similar; the figures given here are for the last study. The tug would have a propellant supply adequate for 16,000 hours of operation and three years of reactor life.

AKA: Gerkules.
Status: Development 1986.
Gross mass: 65,700 kg (144,800 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 15,700 kg (34,600 lb).
Height: 35.00 m (114.00 ft).
Diameter: 5.50 m (18.00 ft).
Span: 30.00 m (98.00 ft).
Thrust: 25 N (6 lbf).
Specific impulse: 3,000 s.
Burn time: 57,600,000 s.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • 11B97 Korolev nuclear electric/xenon rocket engine. 450 mN. Engine for Interorbital Tug for launch by Energia. Developed 1978-1986. Isp=3000s. Powered by nuclear reactor providing 50-150 kWt for 3 to 5 years operation. More...

Associated Propellants
  • Electric/Xenon The many versions of electric engines use electric or magnetic fields to accelerate ionized elements to high velocity, creating thrust. The power source can be a nuclear reactor or thermal-electric generator, or solar panels. Proposed as propellant for some ion motors. More...

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