Rolls-Royce to Develop Lunar Nuclear Reactor

An artist’s rendition of a nuclear reactor on the lunar surface.

On Friday, the UK Space Agency awarded £2.9 million ($3.5 million) to Rolls-Royce to develop a lunar nuclear reactor that would power a manned outpost. In a statement about the funding, the UK’s Science Minister George Freeman said, “Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth: from materials to robotics, nutrition, clean-tech, and much more. As we prepare to see humans return to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years, we are backing exciting research like this lunar modular reactor with Rolls-Royce to pioneer new power sources for a lunar base. Partnerships like this – between British industry, the UK Space Agency, and government – are helping to create jobs across our £16bn space tech sector and help ensure the UK continues to be a major force in frontier science.”

Abi Clayton, director of future programs for Rolls-Royce, also spoke about the funding saying, “This funding will bring us further down the road in making the microreactor a reality, with the technology bringing immense benefits for both space and Earth. The technology will deliver the capability to support commercial and defense use cases alongside providing a solution to decarbonize industry and provide clean, safe, and reliable energy. Rolls-Royce plans to work with several other institutions and entities including, the University of Oxford, the University of Bangor, the University of Brighton, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC,) and Nuclear AMRC. Rolls-Royce hopes to have a working reactor by 2029. The reactor will be used as part of a U.S. lead lunar base that is planned to begin construction in 2032.