UK to invest over $3 million in Rolls Royce’s Moon nuclear reactor

Rolls-Royce is now aiming to “have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029.”
Loukia Papadopoulos
An illustration of Rolls Royce's Moon nuclear reactor.jpg
An illustration of Rolls Royce's Moon nuclear reactor.

Rolls Royce 

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) said on Friday it would invest a significant amount in Rolls-Royce's project to produce nuclear power on the moon.

In a statement, the UKSA outlined how researchers from Rolls-Royce had been working on a Micro-Reactor program "to develop technology that will provide the power needed for humans to live and work on the Moon."

The government agency will now invest £2.9 million (around $3.52 million) in the project in order to "deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor."

"All space missions depend on a power source to support systems for communications, life-support, and science experiments," the UKSA said.

"Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future Lunar missions and their scientific value."

We first reported on Rolls Royce's ambitious plans in September of 2021.

At the time, the firm was looking into how a micro-nuclear reactor could be used to propel rockets while in space at huge speeds and how that technology could then be redeployed to provide energy for drilling, processing, and storage for "Moon mining" and possibly "Mars mining."

The company also claimed it would use its experience in developing nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Navy for 60 years to apply what it learned to spacecraft since submarines and spacecraft are somewhat similar. 

Plans for the reactor are still underway today.

Growing nuclear, science, and space engineering bases

According to the CNBC, Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said that "developing space nuclear power offers a unique chance to support innovative technologies and grow our nuclear, science and space engineering skills base."

Rolls-Royce is now aiming to "have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029."

Although the Moon's proximity to the Sun would make it an ideal candidate for solar power, the reality is that its rotation creates too much darkness for the technology to be viable.

Nuclear power would be an ideal energy source for the celestial object as it can be continually used, whether in darkness or light. However, many kinks still need to be worked out, such as finding the right nuclear fuel and dealing with radioactive waste.

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