Rolls-Royce to build a lunar nuclear reactor before the end of the decade

Rolls-Royce to Build a Lunar Nuclear Reactor before the End of the Decade

Rolls-Royce, best known for its premium cars, has been awarded a $3.5 million contract by the UK space agency to develop a modular nuclear reactor. The energy source will be installed on the Moon by 2029 to support outposts on the extraterrestrial surface.

Most space technology is powered by solar panels, but there are nights on the Moon that last 14 Earth days, and temperatures can drop to -298°F (-183°C), causing irreversible damage to batteries and fragile electronics. The problem of an alternative energy source is solved by radio thermal generators, where the natural decay of radioactive elements, such as plutonium, can power the spacecraft, but this may not be enough for large-scale issues.

So Rolls-Royce began developing modular microreactors with support from the University of Oxford, Bangor University, the University of Brighton, the Center for Advanced Industrial Research at the University of Sheffield and Nuclear AMRC. A real fission reactor, similar to the one on Earth, could provide the lunar base with the energy needed for communications, life support and scientific experiments. Moreover, the program includes not only the construction of the reactor, but also the technology of transferring the heat generated by the reactor and converting it into useful electricity.

In addition to powering the lunar base, Rolls-Royce also believes their technology could have potential terrestrial applications.