Looking forward: Most people probably still only imagine luxury cars when they think of Rolls-Royce. However, the company has begun to apply decades of experience with nuclear powered engines to space exploration. Recently, new details of those plans were revealed.
Rolls-Royce tweeted a new photo of its “mini reactor” that could use nuclear energy to power spaceships and lunar installations. The publication contains more information about the operation of the reactor, in particular with regard to safety.
The small reactor will house the uranium particles under multiple containment levels so that it can withstand the extreme conditions of space travel. For years, Rolls-Royce discussed the reactor as the center of its space ambitions.
company I started Studying nuclear energy for space exploration alongside the British Space Agency in 2021. NASA recently confirmed that it has similar goals in collaboration with DARPA.
The Rolls-Royce micro reactor was designed to use an inherently safe and extremely powerful form of fuel. Each uranium particle is encased in multiple protective layers that act as a containment system, allowing it to withstand harsh conditions.https://t.co/OOc9kBGXDx pic.twitter.com/wkXmZgzhrs
– Rolls-Royce January 27, 2023
NASA has previously used nuclear power on unmanned space missions such as the Voyager probes but not on manned spaceflight. Nuclear fission could be a more fuel-efficient propulsion method than the chemical rockets that currently send people into space. it will be result In shorter and safer travel times. US Department of Defense (DoD) I started Acceptance of offers from private companies for nuclear propulsion systems for spacecraft in 2021.
However, Rolls-Royce also wants to use nuclear reactors to power lunar bases. One possible way It includes Radioisotope devices using americium to power communications and scientific equipment. They will use the natural decomposition of nuclear material, which depletes heat over decades.
Department of Defense and NASA awarded Millions of dollars for Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, X-Energy and Intuitive Machines last year to design nuclear power plants based on the moon. Together, they aim to build a 40-kilowatt fission reactor that can last for a decade on the lunar surface. Furthermore, Rolls-Royce believes its development of space nuclear reactors can help decarbonize Earth. This technology could have applications in terrestrial fields such as defense and shipping.
The British and American organizations all view lunar fission thrusters and reactors as springboards to reach and explore Mars. NASA wants to design a prototype of its system in 2027, while Rolls-Royce wants to produce its small reactor by 2028 and launch it in 2030.