British carmaker Rolls-Royce will receive £2.9 million (around $3.5 million) to fund its research into nuclear power that could be used for lunar bases.
Rolls-Royce says(Opens in a new window) the UK Space Agency funding will help its scientists and engineers build a micro-nuclear reactor by 2029 to “provide power for humans to live and work on the Moon.” It will be made in collaboration with the University of Oxford, University of Brighton, and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and focus on the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer, and technology to convert that heat into electricity.
As Space.com notes(Opens in a new window), a majority of space travel is powered by solar energy, so shifting to nuclear power means space travel will be less reliant on the Sun. Space missions depend on a power source to support systems for communications, life-support, and science experiments.
Abi Clayton, Director of Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce said: “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 defense use cases alongside providing a solution to decarbonize industry and provide clean, safe and reliable energy.”
Speaking to CNBC(Opens in a new window), Dhara Patel, space expert at the National Space Centre in Leicester, England, said that the lifetime of lunar missions could be boosted by the use of nuclear power on the moon. “What will require careful consideration is the nuclear fuel that will be used to generate heat, how it will be responsibly sourced along with how efficiently the new technology will generate electricity from the process and manage the radioactive waste,” she added.
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The £2.7 million funding comes after a £51 million (around $62.3 million) funding drive by the UK Space Agency to allow British companies to develop communication and navigation services to the Moon. The agency also funded another, £249,000 Rolls-Royce study last year.
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