Rolls-Royce, the renowned British luxury carmaker, has been granted permission by the UK government to develop a nuclear reactor for a future Moon base. The UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced that it has selected Rolls-Royce to manufacture a prototype of a nuclear reactor that will provide power to a lunar base. The reactor is being developed by Rolls’ scientists and engineers as part of a research program for what they call a “Micro-Reactor.”
The Micro-Reactor is a miniature, plug-and-play reactor that can be easily transported and set up on the Moon. The UKSA has provided £2.9 million ($3.5 million USD) in funding for the project, which will deliver an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor.
The development of a nuclear reactor for a Moon base is crucial to enable long-term human presence on the Moon. The Moon has abundant resources, such as helium-3, that can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Moreover, a nuclear reactor can provide a stable and reliable source of energy for a Moon base, unlike solar panels that are affected by the lunar day-night cycle.
Rolls-Royce is not the first company to develop a nuclear reactor for the Moon. NASA has been working on a nuclear reactor for the Moon, called the Kilopower reactor, since 2015. However, the Kilopower reactor is much larger than the Micro-Reactor and is designed to provide power to a human mission to Mars. The Micro-Reactor, on the other hand, is a smaller and more compact version of a nuclear reactor that can be easily transported and set up on the Moon.
The development of a nuclear reactor for the Moon is an important step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon. The Micro-Reactor developed by Rolls-Royce has the potential to provide power to a lunar base for many years, enabling astronauts to conduct research, explore the lunar surface, and pave the way for future human missions to Mars and beyond.