The United Kingdom is preparing to develop a Moon base that will enable humans to work and live on the lunar surface, and the UK government wants Rolls-Royce to power it.
A new press release from the UK Space Agency details a new injection of funding into the Micro-Reactor program run by Rolls-Royce. This program is aimed at developing technology that will enable a sustained presence on the surface of the Moon through the generation of nuclear power. According to the press release, nuclear power has the potential to extend Lunar missions and thus the scientific potential, hence the UK Space Agency announcing 2.9 million pounds ($3,555,124 USD) in new funding for the project.
Notably, the new round of funding received by the UK Space Agency is for the initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor, which is expected to be relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems. Furthermore, a small nuclear reactor that can ideally be carried around by a single human could act as a continuous power source regardless of the environmental conditions. Rolls-Royce will be joined by other collaborators on the project, such as engineers from the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), and Nuclear AMRC.
"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," said Abi Clayton, Director of Future Programmes for Rolls-Royce
The press release outlines three key features of the Micro-Reactor that engineers will be focusing their attention on; fuel used to generate heat, method of heat transfer, and the technology to convert the heat into electricity. In addition to being useful on the surface of the Moon, developing such a technology could also be applied to use cases within commercial or defense operations. It should be noted that an almost hand-held nuclear reactor would generate clean energy that would impact many markets around the world depending on the cost of its production.
"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," said Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency
In other space news, NASA and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope has captured another incredible image of the cosmos. This time the famous space telescope honed its old but still extremely impressive instruments on the globular star cluster known as Messier 55. Hubble's image captured just a portion of the globular cluster and demonstrates the incredible capabilities of a space telescope that has been in operation for more than 30 years. The globular cluster is located approximately 20,000 light years away from Earth, within the constellation Sagittarius.
If you are interested in reading more about that story or would like to see the image for yourself, check out the below link.