Rolls-Royce to develop a nuclear reactor for space: Secures Rs 29 crore funding

There is a high chance that you might know of the brand Rolls-Royce as a carmaker that produces some of the most luxurious cars in the world. But did you know that they also have a venture called Rolls-Royce SMR which is a small modular reactor? We had reported about Rolls-Royce building its own nuclear reactor at the start of the year and now we have new developments on the same. It has been announced that Rolls-Royce has secured a funding of £2.9 million (~Rs 29 crore) from the UK Space Agency for building a modular nuclear reactor for the UK’s lunar mission.

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This partnership between the UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce comes after the former announced £51 million of funding available for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to the Moon. This initiative is part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme which aims to launch a constellation of satellites into orbit around the Moon. Rolls-Royce plan to have a reactor ready to send to the Moon by 2029.
The objective of this study is to provide future astronauts, rovers, science experiments and other equipment to communicate better. Using the small nuclear reactor, they could share a large amount of data including high-definition video and navigate safely across the moon. This research could lead to the creation of more job opportunities and attract further investment. A nuclear micro-reactor is relatively small in size and lightweight when compared to other power systems. This technology also does not rely on factors like location, sunlight and any other environmental conditions.
For this project, Rolls-Royce will be working with collaborators like the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC. With this funding, Rolls-Royce will be able to enhance its knowledge of the micro-reactor. It will focus on three key areas – the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer and the technology to convert that heat into electricity.
Abi Clayton, Director of Future Programmes for Rolls-Royce said, “We’re proud to work collaboratively with the UK Space Agency and the many UK academic institutions to showcase the best of UK innovation and knowledge in space. 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.”

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