The UK Space Agency (UKSA) is to back research by Rolls-Royce examining the possibility of nuclear power on the moon.
In a statement, the government agency said researchers from Rolls-Royce had been working on a Micro-Reactor program “to develop technology that will provide power needed for humans to live and work on the Moon.”
According to the UKSA, Rolls-Royce is aiming to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029.
The UKSA will now provide some £2.9 million of funding for the project, which it said would “deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor.”
The new money builds upon £249,000 provided by the UKSA to fund a study in 2022.
“All space missions depend on a power source, to support systems for communications, life-support and science experiments,” it said. “Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future Lunar missions and their scientific value.”
Rolls-Royce is set to work with a range of organisations on the project, including the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Nuclear AMRC, and the University of Oxford.
“Developing space nuclear power offers a unique chance to support innovative technologies and grow our nuclear, science and space engineering skills base,” Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said.
Bate added that Rolls-Royce’s research “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.”
Abi Clayton, director of Future Programmes for Rolls-Royce added:
“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.”