One day we will conquer the stars. Although we have taken many steps in that direction already, we are not at the beginning of the space race; I would say we are more reaching the halfway point. But we still have a long way to go, let’s not deceive ourselves.
And on that space path, Rolls-Royce has a very relevant role. The engine company gave us a glimpse into the nuclear future of the next generation of spacecraft and lunar bases by unveiling a mock-up of its conceptual model of a space microreactor at the UK Space Conference.
As numerous countries and private companies have committed to launching an increasing number of manned and unmanned missions to the Moon, as well as expanding their activities into deep space, finding a reliable energy source beyond solar panels is becoming increasingly important has become an imperative.
A reactor to conquer the stars
Chemical rockets have been operating close to their theoretical limits since the early tests of the V2 during World War II. As humanity ventures into deep space and with the increasing need to monitor and maintain satellites in Earth’s orbit, a more efficient propulsion system becomes necessary.
As part of a program funded by the UK Space Agency with $3.6 million, Rolls-Royce has been working on a new microreactor to address these needs.
This small, advanced reactor, planned for demonstration on the Moon in the early next decade, is designed to provide future bases with the necessary energy not only to undertake highly ambitious tasks but also to heat the bases so they can survive the extremely cold lunar nights.
Furthermore, the new reactor is designed to act as an energy source for electric and other propulsion systems that will extend the reach of missions to the outer solar system and beyond. It will also enable maintenance and patrol spacecraft to travel between Earth’s orbits with much greater speed and flexibility than is currently possible.
All of this is great, but until now, the public and the industry only had conceptual art of the microreactor. That was until Rolls-Royce unveiled its model of the demonstration reactor that will seek answers on how to generate heat, transfer it, and convert it into electricity.