Rolls-Royce is going to build a modular nuclear reactor on the moon. In the future, the reactor should supply power to future lunar bases, which will become the home port for astronauts.
The investment is part of the Micro-Reactor project. The UK Space Agency, a British government organization, is investing an amount of 2.9 million pounds in the project. With the help of this investment, Rolls-Royce can, among other things, realize a demonstration of the modular nuclear reactor to be built on the track.
The company also wants to use the money to conduct additional research on the nuclear reactor. Specifically, this concerns the fuel for generating heat, the method by which this heat is transferred, and the technology that ultimately converts the heat into energy. Rolls-Royce wants to have developed a modular nuclear reactor by 2029 that can send it to the moon.
Last year, Rolls-Royce already received research funding of 249,000 British pounds from the UK Space Agency.
The modular nuclear reactor offers several advantages, Rolls-Royce reports. For example, the system is relatively small and lightweight in relation to other systems for generating energy. The system can achieve a continuous supply of energy, regardless of the location where it is deployed. Environmental factors such as the availability of sun and wind also play no role.
Rolls-Royce is working with various other parties within the project. These include the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC.
By the way, the applications of the Modular reactor are wider than just space travel. For example, Rolls-Royce expects the reactor to be suitable for all kinds of commercial applications, as well as defence applications. The project is therefore focused on the realization of a widely deployable modular nuclear reactor. Space is one of the applications. The energy source must be able to serve multiple markets with clean, sustainable and long-term available energy.
“Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on earth: from materials to robotics, food, cleantech and much more,” says British Science minister George Freeman. “As we prepare to see humans return to the moon for the first time in over 50 years, we are supporting exciting research like this modular Lunar reactor with Rolls-Royce to pioneer new energy sources for a lunar base.
“These types of partnerships between UK industry, the UK Space Agency and government help create jobs in our £ 16 billion space Tech sector and help ensure the UK remains a major force in cutting-edge science.”
The investment from the UK Space Agency is not unexpected. It is part of a wider funding package aimed at UK businesses. This package should stimulate the development of communication and navigation systems for missions on the moon
This focus is part of the space agency’s Moonlight program. Among other things, this program should lead to the launch of a satellite constellation into Earth orbit. Through this satellite network, astronauts, rovers, scientific experiments and other equipment should be able to communicate, share data and navigate the lunar surface, among other things.