Rolls-Royce secures funding to develop lunar nuclear reactor
Derby-based manufacturer Rolls-Royce has landed funding from the UK Space Agency to develop a nuclear reactor for a moon base.
Rolls will work on a scheme that will investigate if and how nuclear power could be utilised to support a base on the moon for astronauts.
Scientists and engineers at Rolls-Royce are working on the Micro-Reactor programme to develop technology that will provide power needed for humans to live and work on the moon. Rolls says that nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future lunar missions and their scientific value.
The UK Space Agency has announced £2.9m of new funding for the project which will deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor. This follows a £249,000 study funded by the UK Space Agency in 2022.
Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman, said: “Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth: from materials to robotics, nutrition, cleantech and much more.
“As we prepare to see humans return to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years, we are backing exciting research like this lunar modular reactor with Rolls-Royce to pioneer new power sources for a lunar base.
“Partnerships like this, between British industry, the UK Space Agency and government are helping to create jobs across our £16 billion Space Tech sector and help ensure the UK continues to be a major force in frontier science.”
Nuclear space power is anticipated to create new skilled jobs across the UK to support the burgeoning UK space economy. Rolls-Royce plan to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029.
Abi Clayton, director of Future Programmes for Rolls-Royce said: “The new tranche of funding from the UK Space Agency means so much for the Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor Programme. We’re proud to work collaboratively with the UK Space Agency and the many UK academic institutions to showcase the best of UK innovation and knowledge in space.
“This funding will bring us further down the road in making the Micro-Reactor a reality, with the technology bringing immense benefits for both space and Earth. The technology will deliver the capability to support commercial and defence use cases alongside providing a solution to decarbonise industry and provide clean, safe and reliable energy.”