Rolls-Royce wins UK funds for 'Moon' nuclear reactors

LONDON, United Kingdom - British aerospace giant Rolls-Royce said Friday it had secured UK funding to develop small nuclear reactors that could provide power on the Moon.

Rolls said the UK Space Agency had offered it £2.9 million ($3.5 million) to help research "how nuclear power could be used to support a future Moon base for astronauts."

An artist's impression released by Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd on March 17, 2023 shows a Rolls-Royce Space Flower microreactor to provide the power needed for a continuous human presence on the moon. Rolls-Royce has received funding from the UK Space Agency to develop a nuclear reactor for a moon base. The project will look into how nuclear power could be used to support a future base on the moon for astronauts.

Handout / Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd / AFP

"Scientists and engineers at Rolls-Royce are working on the micro-reactor programme to develop technology that will provide power needed for humans to live and work on the Moon," the aerospace company added in a statement.

Rolls forecast its first car-sized reactor would be ready to be sent to the Moon by 2029.

Friday's news comes as US space agency NASA aims to return humans to the Moon in 2025.

It would be the first visit since the historic Apollo missions ended in 1972.

"Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future lunar missions and their scientific value," Rolls said.

The group, best known for its engines powering Airbus and Boeing aircraft, will work alongside UK universities including Oxford on the space project.