MOSCOW, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Russia is developing manned spacecraft powered by nuclear engines, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency said on Wednesday.
The development of Megawatt-class nuclear power systems for manned spacecraft was vital if Russia intended to maintain its leading position in the space industry, Anatoly Perminov said in a meeting of the presidential commission on the modernization of the Russian economy.
"The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs," Perminov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
He said the draft design of the spacecraft would be finished by2012, and that at least 17 billion rubles (more than 580 million U.S. dollars) were needed for further development over the next nine years.
Analysts believe the key scientific and technical problem in sending manned missions to the Moon and Mars is the development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency.