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Rolls-Royce Collaborates with UK Space Agency to Develop Lunar Nuclear Reactor

Rolls-Royce secures funding from UK Space Agency to develop nuclear power technology for future lunar base. Micro-Reactor programme aims to provide continuous power, increasing duration and scientific value of missions. Project receives £2.9m funding, with reactor set to be ready for the Moon by 2029.

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Jay Keegan

Jay Keegan

Sat Mar 18 2023Written by Jay Keegan

Rolls-Royce has announced that it has secured £2.9 million in funding from the UK Space Agency for its Micro-Reactor programme. The project is focused on developing technology to provide the necessary power to support a future Moon base for astronauts. The Micro-Reactor aims to create a world-leading power and propulsion capability for multiple markets and operator needs, alongside a clean, green and long-term power source on the lunar surface.

Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future Lunar missions and their scientific value. The relatively small and lightweight nuclear micro-reactor technology could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other environmental conditions. The aim is to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029.

Rolls-Royce is working alongside various collaborators, including the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC, to strengthen its knowledge of these complex systems, with a focus on three key features of the Micro-Reactor; the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer, and technology to convert that heat into electricity.

The potential applications of Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor technology are wide-ranging and could support commercial and defence use cases in addition to those in space. The partnership with Rolls-Royce comes after the UK Space Agency recently announced £51 million of funding available for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to the Moon, as part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme.