UK backs Rolls-Royce project to build nuclear reactor on moon


Rolls-Royce has been working on a Micro-Reactor program “to develop technology that will power people to live and work on the moon.”

Lorenzo Di Cola | Nurphoto | Getty Images

LONDON — The UK Space Agency said on Friday it would support research by Rolls Royce looking at the use of nuclear energy on the moon.

In a statement, the government agency said researchers at Rolls-Royce had been working on a Micro-Reactor program “to develop technology that will power people to live and work on the moon.”

The UKSA will now provide £2.9m (approximately $3.52m) in funding for the project, which it said would “provide a first demonstration of a British modular nuclear reactor on the moon”.

The new money builds on £249,000 provided by the UKSA to fund a study in 2022.

“All space missions rely on a source of energy to support communication, life support and scientific experimentation systems,” it said.

“Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically extend the duration of future lunar missions and their scientific value.”

Learn more about energy from CNBC Pro

Rolls-Royce will be collaborating with a range of organizations on the project, including the University of Sheffield and the University of Oxford’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Center and Nuclear AMRC.

“Developing nuclear energy in space presents a unique opportunity to support innovative technologies and expand our nuclear, scientific and space engineering knowledge base,” said Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency.

Bate added that Rolls-Royce’s research “could lay the groundwork for encouraging continued human presence on the moon, while improving the wider UK space sector, creating jobs and generating further investment.”

According to the UKSA, Rolls-Royce — not to be confused with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, is owned by BMW – aims to “have a reactor ready to send to the moon by 2029.”

Dhara Patel, a space expert at the National Space Center in England’s Leicester, told CNBC that people returning to the moon need “a reliable energy source” so that astronauts can “live and work on our lunar neighbor for long-duration missions.”

“Solar seems like an obvious choice, but the moon’s rotation results in a two-week day followed by two weeks of darkness or night — not ideal,” Patel further explained.

“With little air and no liquid water on the surface, other renewable energy sources are not possible,” she said. “Nuclear power could enable a continuous source of energy regardless of the physical environment and conditions on the lunar surface.”

Using nuclear power on the moon, Patel noted, could extend the life of lunar missions.

“What needs careful consideration is the nuclear fuel that will be used to generate heat, how it will be sourced responsibly, and how efficiently the new technology will generate electricity from the process and manage the radioactive waste.”

“The additional funding from UKSA will hopefully enable Rolls-Royce to explore these areas and develop the best possible systems.”

The news from the UK comes as NASA continues its Artemis program, which aims to create what it calls a “sustainable presence on the moon in preparation for missions to Mars”.

NASA is working with international and commercial partners on Artemis. In July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here