The British industrial group Rolls-Royce announced on Friday March 17 that it had received 2.9 million pounds (3.3 million euros) in funding from the British Space Agency to develop small nuclear reactors for future lunar bases.
“Rolls-Royce scientists and engineers are working on the micro-reactor program to develop technology that will provide the energy needed for humans to live and work on the Moon”indicates the company in a communiqué.
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The group predicts that a first reactor, which will be about the size of a car, will be ready to be sent to the Moon by 2029.
About 50 years after the last Apollo mission, the return of humans to the Moon is materializing: NASA announced in early March that the Artemis 2 space mission would take astronauts around the satellite in November 2024.
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The Artemis 3 mission, which is to land astronauts on the lunar surface, is officially scheduled for 2025. NASA and Axiom Space presented Wednesday in Houston, Texas, a prototype of the new spacesuit they will wear.
“Nuclear energy has the potential to greatly increase the duration of future lunar missions and their scientific value”assured Rolls-Royce, which will work with several British universities, including Oxford.
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Atomic projects also in Great Britain
Funding announcement Friday is in addition to 249,000 pounds (282,000 euros) provided by the British Space Agency in 2022. This new tranche will allow the company to carry out a first demonstration of a lunar modular nuclear reactor.
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Rolls-Royce is also developing small modular reactors for the production of electricity on land, in particular within the framework of the United Kingdom’s plans to accelerate the construction of new nuclear power plants on its territory.
Britain’s government-dependent space agency recently failed in an attempt to launch the first rocket into space from UK soil, attached to a Virgin Orbit company Boeing 747.
The launch, affected by a « anomalies » which prevented the rocket from being put into orbit, was carried out as part of a consortium bringing together the British Space Agency, the Cornwall Spaceport and Virgin Orbit – a company which announced Thursday to suspend its operations.
NASA also announced in January a partnership with the Pentagon to develop a rocket powered by nuclear energy and intended to send humans to Mars.