Russia explores atomic space engine Russia explores atomic space engine Russia explores atomic space engine Russia is preparing to develop a nuclear-propelled spacecraft to maintain a competitive edge in the global space race, officials said. Nearly $17 million has been earmarked for research this year by Rosatom, the state nuclear corporation, and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, RIA Novosti reported Monday. The design stage is to be completed by 2012 and at least another $580 million would be needed for further development in the coming decade, Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov said. Nuclear-propelled space ships could be used for flights to Mars and other planets and to establish a permanent base on the moon, something Russia's space industry is incapable of now, Perminov said. Nuclear propulsion and its high energy efficiency is key to maintaining a competitive edge in the space race, he said.