Rolls Royce Is Going To The Moon

By Rob Harvey
By Rob Harvey

Marketing Manager - Bridge Classic Cars

Rolls Royce has been given funding from the UK Space Agency to continue its research into how nuclear power could be used to support a future human base on the moon.

Going into space obviously requires a dependable power source to keep the multitude of systems operating during missions. Things like life support and communications are of paramount importance, and scientific experiments also need to be conducted with a consistent power source.

As nuclear power has the potential to drastically increase the amount of time humans could stay on the moon in future missions, scientists and engineers at Rolls Royce are working on a Micro-Reactor programme which aims to develop technology to power a lunar base.

The UK Space Agency has given £2.9 million in funding to the project with the aim of delivering an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor. This round of funding comes after a £249,000 study in 2022 which was also funded by the UK Space Agency

Nuclear Power

Rolls-Royce plan to have a reactor ready to send to the moon by 2029. While the project is primarily focused on powering facilities off-planet, the aim is to create a world-leading power and propulsion capability for multiple industries and needs including a clean, green, and long-term power source. Micro-Reactor technology also has a lot of potential to be used for commercial and defence applications too.

A nuclear Micro-Reactor is relatively small and lightweight when compared to other power systems and generates continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, or any other environmental conditions. Along with their engineers, Rolls-Royce will be working with several other parties including the University of Oxford, the University of Bangor, the University of Brighton, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC.

Thanks to the £2.9 million in funding, Rolls-Royce can now further strengthen its knowledge of these highly complex systems. The project will focus on three key features – the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer and the technology to convert that heat into electricity.

Making The Moon A Permanent Base

The UK Space Agency recently announced that funding of £51 million was available to UK companies to help develop communication and navigational technology to support missions to the moon. It forms part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight Programme which has the goal of having a constellation of satellites in orbit around the moon.

Partnering with Rolls-Royce is just one step towards future astronauts and rovers having the capabilities to navigate the lunar surface safely, as well as helping to support scientific experiments.

What The Experts Say

George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology 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.”

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.”

The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate, said:

“We are backing technology and capabilities to support ambitious space exploration missions and boost sector growth across the UK. Developing space nuclear power offers a unique chance to support innovative technologies and grow our nuclear, science and space engineering skills base. This innovative research by Rolls-Royce could lay the groundwork for powering continuous human presence on the Moon, while enhancing the wider UK space sector, creating jobs and generating further investment.”

Rolls-Royce In Space

With this partnership between the UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce, it is a clear sign that big names in the automotive industry are much more than just car manufacturers. They have the potential to not only change people’s day-to-day lives by creating convenient vehicles, but they also have the potential to change the future of humanity on a planetary level.

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