Rolls-Royce space reactor receives UK government funding

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The UK Space Agency is giving £2 million in financial aid to organizations developing space exploration technology, including a Rolls-Royce space reactor and the Open University’s Mars imaging technology.

The 13 projects supported by the government agency aim to accelerate space exploration by improving technology in areas such as energy, communication and resources.

Rolls-Royce will receive £249,000 of the funding to develop its space power station project. The power station would be used to power the production of water, oxygen and rocket fuel.

“The support of the UK space agency has been instrumental in enabling continued progress on the Rolls-Royce micro-reactor development programme,” said Abi Clayton, future program director at Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce will use its previous nuclear expertise to build a self-contained micro-reactor. The technology could also be used on Earth. It builds on Rolls-Royce’s existing partnership with the UK space agency to develop nuclear propulsion engines designed to cut the time needed to travel to Mars in half.

Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman unveiled the funding increase as part of British Science Week, which runs from March 11-20.

“In addition to discovery breakthroughs, these projects will also ensure that people here on Earth benefit from new technologies, including micro-reactor technology with the potential to support our Net Zero commitments,” Freeman said.

Other space projects to receive government support include £100,000 to Glasgow-based Braided Communications to develop a tool for zero-delay communications between Earth and Mars.

Another project is Moon-RISE, which has been awarded £222,000 to create a robot that will search for oxygen and water in rocks on the Moon. The robot will use LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to map the surface of the Moon and a LIBS (laser-induced decay spectrometer) to examine the mineral composition.

The UK has invested £180million over the five years to 2019 in the European Space Agency’s Global Exploration Program and is expected to build parts of the Lunar Gateway space station.

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