UK Space Agency backs Rolls-Royce and BWXT space reactor development

April 11, 2024
The new £1.18 million award from the Fund backs collaboration to identify and advance the optimum technologies for a fission nuclear system, benefitting both UK and U.S. space nuclear development programs for a range of space power missions.

LONDON - Rolls-Royce in London has announced it had secured a second round of funding from the United Kingdom Space Agency's International Bilateral Fund (IBF) to identify and advance technologies for fission nuclear systems in space. Rolls-Royce is collaborating with BWXT Advanced Technologies in Lynchburg, Va. on this project. 

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

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.

Related: U.S. Space Force moves ahead on orbital nuclear power reactors to support future satellites, space stations

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

"We are delighted to win the award for the second phase of the International Bilateral Fund and to be continuing our collaboration with the UK Space Agency and our international project partner BWXT.

"This new agreement builds on our complimentary core competencies and market knowledge from our respective countries. This enables us to build upon our existing relationship and explore potential strategic relationships and business arrangements to further develop nuclear technologies and products for space," says Steve Carlier, president of Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd.

Related: Lockheed Martin to build Navy submarine-launched nuclear missiles with inertial and celestial guidance

This latest investment follows £2.9 million of 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.

"Our International Bilateral Fund bolsters international collaboration that harnesses the UK’s national expertise, supports new space capabilities, and catalyzes investment," Anu Ojha of the UK Space Agency said. "This exciting research by Rolls-Royce to develop space nuclear power is an opportunity to showcase the UK as a spacefaring nation. Innovative technologies such as this one could pave the way for continuous human presence on the Moon, whilst enhancing the wider UK space sector, creating jobs and generating further investment."

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!