he UK Space Agency, which is backing research by Rolls-Royce into how nuclear power could be used to support a future Moon base for astronauts. Researchers at Rolls-Royce are working on the Micro-Reactor programme to develop a technology that could provide the power needed for humans to live and work on the Moon. Nuclear power, says R-R, has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future Lunar missions and their scientific value. The UK Space Agency has announced £2.9 million of new funding for the project, which will deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor. This follows a £249 000 study funded by the UK Space Agency in 2022.
Rolls-Royce plans to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029. Relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems, a nuclear micro-reactor could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other environmental conditions. Rolls-Royce will be working alongside a variety of collaborators including the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC. The funding means Rolls-Royce can further strengthen its knowledge of these complex systems, with a focus on three key features of the Micro-Reactor: the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer and technology to convert this heat into electricity.