Rolls-Royce has received funding from the UK government to develop a nuclear reactor for future lunar bases.
Scientists and engineers at a British company are working on a microreactor program to develop technology to provide the power humans need to live and work on the Moon.
The British Space Agency announced on Friday that it will provide £2.9 million ($3.5 million) in new funding for the project.
This follows a £249,000 study funded by the agency in 2022.
All space missions rely on power to support systems for communications, life support, and scientific experiments.
Experts suggest that nuclear power could significantly extend the duration of lunar missions.
Relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems, nuclear micro-reactors could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other environmental conditions. .
Rolls-Royce plans to be ready to send a nuclear reactor to the moon by 2029.
We work with a variety of collaborators, including the University of Oxford, Bangor University, Brighton University, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield, and the Nuclear AMRC.
new moon race
The new funding comes at a time when a new space race is heating up between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.
In December, NASA completed the 26-day Artemis I mission, orbiting the moon with the unmanned Orion spacecraft. This was the first significant step in his NASA goal of sending astronauts to the moon in 2025 and establishing a more permanent human presence.
NASA said its next lunar mission, Artemis II, is due to take place within two years and a crew of astronauts will join the expedition.
If the flight is successful, it will pave the way for Artemis III astronauts’ expeditions to the lunar surface, the first-ever to the lunar south pole, in the next decade.
Named after the twin sisters of Apollo in Greek mythology, the program ultimately aims to establish a sustainable lunar base as a stepping stone to future Mars exploration.
But NASA Administrator Bill Nelson warned that China could claim parts of the moon as its own territory and kick out US astronauts.
in an interview with Politico In a statement on January 1, Nelson expressed concern that China might try to restrict access to resource-rich areas of the moon from the United States and other countries aiming to explore the lunar surface.
According to a recent Pentagon report, China’s space program has made many important advances (pdf) to Congress.
Zhao Xingguo, head of the aerospace department at the First College of China Aerospace Science and Technology Company, the state-owned contractor responsible for most of China’s space launches, said China’s first manned lunar surface, known as the Long March 5G The launch vehicle will fly for the first time by 2027, Chinese state media reported in November 2022.
“Certainly, it would be better to be careful that they don’t get to the moon under the guise of scientific research. It is not beyond the possibility of saying that it is the territory of
Commenting on the new investment in the UK space program, Science Minister George Freeman said:
“As we prepare to see mankind return to the moon for the first time in over 50 years, we are excited to work with Rolls-Royce to explore new power sources for lunar bases, such as this exciting modular nuclear reactor on the moon. supporting research.
“Such partnerships between UK industry, the UK Space Agency and government will help create jobs across the £16bn space technology sector and ensure the UK remains a leading force in frontier science. It helps us make sure.”
Abi Clayton, Director of Future Programs at Rolls-Royce, said the company was “proud to be working with the UK Space Agency and many UK academic institutions to showcase the best of UK innovation and knowledge in space. I’m thinking,” he said.
“This technology provides a solution to decarbonize industries and deliver clean, safe and reliable energy, as well as the capabilities to support commercial and defense use cases.”
British Space Agency Chief Executive Paul Bate said the investment “will boost the growth of the sector across the UK”.
He said the development of space nuclear power would provide a “unique opportunity” to support innovative technologies and grow the UK’s nuclear, scientific and space engineering skill base.
“This groundbreaking research by Rolls-Royce will lay the groundwork to power the continued human presence on the Moon, strengthen the UK’s wider space sector, create jobs and drive further investment. can produce.”
Hannah Ng, PA Media, and Reuters contributed to this report.