The British space agency has decided to continue funding a Rolls-Royce project to create a small nuclear-powered reactor that could serve as a long-term power source for moon bases.
The new boost to Rolls-Royce’s research pot follows an earlier $303,495 (£249,000) study funded by the UK Space Agency in 2022. With the new funds, the company hopes to have a model of demonstration for a modular micro-reactor ready to deliver to the moon by 2029.
In a March 17 Press release (opens in a new tab)Rolls-Royce and the UK space agency say the micro-reactor program will help “develop the technology that will provide the energy humans need to live and work on the moon”.
Related: Rolls-Royce unveils preliminary design for nuclear space reactor
Further research will focus on three critical aspects of the microreactor: generating heat, transferring that heat, and converting that heat into usable energy.
“This ground-breaking research from Rolls-Royce could lay the groundwork for power continued human presence on the moon“said Paul Bate, director general of the British Space Agency, in the press release.
There is also the question of equipping the micro-reactor to operate in the lunar environment. Currently, the majority of space travel is powered by solar energy. A nuclear power source allows for greater versatility in missions and less reliance on the sun.
To help Rolls-Royce scientists and engineers, the company has partnered with the University of Oxford, Bangor University, University of Brighton, Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC ) from the University of Sheffield and at the nuclear AMRC.
“Partnerships like this, between UK industry, the UK space agency and government, help create jobs in our £16 billion space tech sector and help ensure the UK continues to be a major force in frontier science,” George Freeman, Minister of State for the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, said in the March 17 news release.
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