Rolls-Royce scientists and engineers are working on the Micro-Reactor initiative to create technologies that would provide the necessary energy for humans to live and work on the Moon. All space missions require a power source to sustain communications, life-support, and scientific investigations. Nuclear power has the potential to significantly extend the duration and scientific value of future lunar missions.

The UK Space Agency has announced further funding of £2.9 million for a project that would provide the first demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor. This follows research financed by the UK Space Agency for £249,00 in 2022.

George Freeman, minister of state in the Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology, stated:

Space exploration is the ultimate testing ground for several transformative technologies required on Earth, including materials, robotics, nutrition, clean technology, and many more.

As we prepare to return people to the Moon for the first time in more than half a century, we are supporting innovative research such as this lunar modular reactor with Rolls-Royce to develop new power sources for a lunar base.

This partnership between British business, the UK Space Agency, and the government helps to create employment in our £16 billion SpaceTech sector and ensures that the United Kingdom will continue to be a leader in frontier research.

It is projected that nuclear space power would provide new skilled employment in the United Kingdom to support the country’s developing space sector. Rolls-Royce plans to have a Moon-bound reactor ready by 2029.

A nuclear micro-reactor, which is relatively small and light compared to existing power sources, might provide continuous electricity independent of location, available sunshine, and other environmental factors.

Rolls-Royce will collaborate with the University of Oxford, the University of Bangor, the University of Brighton, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield, and the Nuclear AMRC. The money will allow Rolls-Royce to increase its understanding of these complex systems, with a particular focus on the fuel used to create heat, the mechanism of heat transport, and the technology used to convert that heat into electricity.

In addition to space applications, the Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor technology might be used for commercial and military purposes. The objective is to develop world-leading power and propulsion capabilities for diverse markets and operator requirements, as well as a clean, sustainable, and long-term power source.

Abi Clayton, Rolls-Director Royce’s of Future Projects, stated:

Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor Program will benefit tremendously from the UK Space Agency’s increased funding allocation. We are pleased to collaborate with the UK Space Agency and several academic institutions in the UK to highlight the finest of UK innovation and expertise in space.

This money will bring us closer to realizing the Micro-Reactor, a technology that will provide great advantages to both space and Earth. In addition to delivering a solution to decarbonize industry and supply clean, safe, and dependable energy, the technology will have the potential to serve commercial and defense use cases.

Dr. Paul Bate, Chief Executive Officer of the United Kingdom Space Agency, stated:

We are investing in technology and expertise to support ambitious space exploration missions and to stimulate sector growth in the United Kingdom. The development of space nuclear power presents an unparalleled opportunity to promote novel technologies and expand our nuclear, scientific, and space engineering expertise.

This breakthrough study by Rolls-Royce might pave the way for a permanent human presence on the Moon, while also boosting the UK’s space industry, creating employment, and attracting further investment.

The partnership with Rolls-Royce follows the recent announcement by the UK Space Agency of £51 million in funding for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for Moon missions, as part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight program, which aims to launch a constellation of satellites into lunar orbit.

This will enable future humans, rovers, science projects, and other equipment to connect, share vast quantities of data, including high-definition video, and explore the lunar surface securely.

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