and the effectiveness of the U.S. space-based early-warning system that employs them. Essentially, the termination of the RAMOS program came as a consequence of the fundamentally new political situation that materialized after the United States had decided to withdraw from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and expedite the development of the National Missile Defense system and its space component.
Space-based nuclear power could be an important and promising aspect of the U.S.-Russian high-tech cooperation which contributes to the building of greater mutual trust. The cooperation could be geared toward the joint development of nuclear power generation, as well as nuclear propulsion systems and spacecraft that use such systems. It seems that cooperation in this field will be most instrumental for boosting the collaborative spirit and mutual understanding in the area of nuclear nonproliferation.
In the early 1990s, the TOPAZ International Program was initiated. It was funded from the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative Organization’s budget, specifically, from the line item intended for space-based nuclear power generation systems (Assessment of the TOPAZ International Program, TOPAZ Committee, Washington, D.C., 1996). The TOPAZ program included the following activities: nonnuclear testing in the United States of Russian Yenisey-class units (the TSET subprogram), flight testing of a TOPAZ II reactor in conjunction with electric rocket engines (the NEPSTEP subprogram), and development of a 40-kilowatt thermal emission unit. The TOPAZ system was not completed because of insufficient funding and, most importantly, as a result of the absence of clear plans, on the part of the United States, to launch space missions which would require nuclear propulsion. At the same time, the TOPAZ Evaluation Commission noted the need to reorient the program and recommended that it be continued on a long-term basis. That, the commission argued, would take advantage of mergers of mutually beneficial U.S. and Russian programs and utilize Russian technologies to achieve national security objectives.
In the United States, the efforts to develop new nuclear power generation systems for space use resumed in 2002 within the framework of the Nuclear System Initiative. In 2003, this program was supplemented by the development of a spacecraft with a nuclear propulsion system. The spacecraft was to explore three moons of Jupiter: Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa. The program was dubbed Prometheus; the project of designing interplanetary station JIMO was started within its framework. Russia’s proposals regarding participation in the Prometheus and JIMO projects on high-power nuclear propulsion systems (100 kilowatts and higher) found no support from the U.S. side. One could venture an assumption that this has to do with national security interests because high-power nuclear propulsion may be effectively used in space surveillance systems, including those supporting the ballistic missile defense system.
Many years of U.S.-Russian bilateral cooperation in space have shown that the most fruitful and useful form of such cooperation is joint implementation of high-tech projects, including military projects. The logistical organization of such projects can vary and may include joint venture formation. The joint work of project managers and their large teams, the purpose of which is the achievement of a common objective, is most helpful in fostering mutual understanding and uprooting mutual mistrust. The mistrust may actually be a by-product of the one’s determination to secure his nation’s interests rather than a result of the negative stereotypes of the Cold War.