Rolls-Royce, the British manufacturer of luxury cars and aircraft engines, wants to fly even higher. The company has received funding from the UK Space Agency to develop nuclear microreactors to provide the energy humans need to live and work on the Moon. According to the company, the device will be ready to be sent to our natural satellite in 2029.
All space missions depend on a power source to support communication systems, life support and science experiments. According to Rolls-Royce, nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future lunar missions and their scientific value.
Relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems, a nuclear microreactor can provide continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other environmental conditions.
Rolls-Royce will work together with several partners, including the University of Oxford, on the project, for which the British space agency has allocated 2.9 million pounds (about 3.4 million euros). This will allow the company to work on three key characteristics of the microreactor: the fuel used to generate heat, the method of transferring the heat, and the technology for converting that heat into electricity.
The potential applications of Rolls-Royce’s micro-jet technology are broad and can support commercial and defense use cases as well as those in space. As they say in a statement, “The aim is to create world-leading power and propulsion capability for various markets and carrier needs, along with a clean, green, long-term source of energy.”
“The technology will bring immense benefits to both space and Earth: the ability to support both commercial and defense use cases, as well as a solution to decarbonize industry and provide clean, safe and reliable energy,” said Abi Clayton, Director of Rolls-Royce Future Programs.
permanent human presence
Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “This groundbreaking research from Rolls-Royce can lay the groundwork to boost a continued human presence on the Moon, whilst also improving the UK’s space sector, creating jobs. and generating more investments.
The partnership with Rolls-Royce comes after the UK Space Agency recently announced £51m (€58m) of funding available for British companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to Luna, as part of the Agency’s Moonlight programme. European Space Agency, whose objective is to launch a constellation of satellites into orbit around the Moon.
This will allow future astronauts, rovers, science experiments and other equipment to communicate, share vast amounts of data, including high-definition video, and safely navigate the lunar surface.
“Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth: from materials to robotics, nutrition, cleantech and much more,” said George Freeman, UK Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology.
NASA hopes to launch the Artemis III mission in 2025 with a human crew, including at least one woman and one person of color, to set foot on the Moon again for the first time since Apollo 17 astronauts did in 1972. to settle there permanently.