Rolls-Royce, BWXT Technologies to Develop Space Based Nuclear Reactor

Our Micro-Reactor could provide power for a Lunar Base: Rolls-Royce
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  • 10:10 AM, April 8, 2024
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Rolls-Royce, BWXT Technologies to Develop Space Based Nuclear Reactor

British firm Rolls-Royce is collaborating with U.S.-based BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC (BWXT) on space reactor development.

On April 8, Rolls-Royce announced it has secured funding from Phase 2 of the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund (IBF). The new £1.18 million award from the Fund supports collaboration to identify and advance the optimum technologies for a fission nuclear system, benefiting both UK and U.S. space nuclear development programs for a range of space power missions.

The agreement facilitates business collaboration and joint development of new and novel nuclear applications in the space domain, utilizing the core nuclear design and manufacturing strengths of each party.

This agreement further strengthens UK and U.S. collaboration on first-of-a-kind space technology innovation, as detailed under the Atlantic Declaration commitment. In an announcement made by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and U.S. President Joe Biden on June 8, 2023, both countries pledged to study “opportunities for cooperation on space nuclear power and propulsion.”

All space missions depend on a power source to support systems for communications, life support, and science experiments. Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future space missions and their scientific value.

Nuclear power, effectively utilized in space, will deliver a step change in mission capability across an extensive platform of applications. Space micro-reactors are a solution to meet these requirements, and this latest award from the UK Space Agency ensures the continued development of this technology.

This latest tranche of investment follows £2.9 million in funding awarded to Rolls-Royce from the UK Space Agency under the Lunar Surface Nuclear Power Contract and Phase 1 of the IBF project in 2023, which delivered an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor.