Brighton University experts to work on power for Moon base
Experts from Brighton University are to join forces with Rolls-Royce to develop a nuclear reactor for a base on the Moon.
Rolls-Royce has received funding from the UK Space Agency to develop the reactor as the project looks into how nuclear power could be used to support a future Moon base for astronauts.
Scientists and engineers at the company are working on the micro-reactor programme to develop the technology that would provide the power needed for humans to live and work on Earth’s natural satellite.
All space missions depend on a power source to support systems for communications, life-support and science experiments.
Experts suggest that nuclear power could potentially dramatically increase the length of lunar missions.
The UK Space Agency has announced £2.9 million of new funding for the project which will deliver an initial demonstration of a British lunar modular nuclear reactor.
It follows a £249,000 study funded by the UK Space Agency last year.
Science Minister George Freeman said: “Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth – from materials to robotics, nutrition, clean-tech and much more.
“As we prepare to see humans return to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years, we are backing exciting research like this lunar modular reactor with Rolls-Royce to pioneer new power sources for a lunar base.
“Partnerships like this, between British industry, the UK Space Agency and government are helping to create jobs across our £16 billion space tech sector and help ensure the UK continues to be a major force in frontier science.”
Rolls-Royce plans to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029, working with several collaborators including Brighton University. Others include Oxford University, Bangor University, Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC.
Compared to other power systems, a relatively small and lightweight nuclear micro-reactor could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight and other environmental conditions.
Rolls-Royce’s director of future programmes Abi Clayton 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 defence use cases alongside providing a solution to decarbonise industry and provide clean, safe and reliable energy.”
UK Space Agency chief executive Paul Bate said: “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.”
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