A Rolls-Royce nuclear engine for the Moon
A Rolls-Royce nuclear engine for the Moon
© Rolls-Royce Holdings

A Rolls-Royce nuclear engine for the Moon

The United Kingdom is supporting research into how nuclear energy could be used to power a future lunar base for astronauts.

A first demonstration in 2029

The British Space Agency (Uksa) announced on March 17 continue funding a smallnuclear reactor project developed by British engine maker Rolls-Royce, dubbed Micro-Reactor.

This small nuclear reactor is intended to equip a future habitable base implanted on the Moon.

It is to serve as a power source for communication systems, life support and scientific experiments conducted by astronauts in situ.

The contract follows an initial study that was awarded in 2022, worth £249 000 000 (about €283 000 €).

The new funding amounts to £2.9 M (€3.3 M), for a first demonstration in 2029.



The project involves many partners across the UK, in particular the University of Oxford, University of Bangor, University of Brighton, University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Nuclear AMRC.

The funding means "Rolls-Royce can further strengthen its knowledge of these complex systems, with a focus on three key features of the Micro-Reactor; the fuel used to generate heat, the method of heat transfer and technology to convert that heat into electricity."


A major issue for the UK

George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, said:

“Space exploration is the ultimate laboratory for so many of the transformational technologies we need on Earth: from materials to robotics, nutrition, cleantech 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 £16 billion Space Tech sector and help ensure the UK continues to be a major force in frontier science.”

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