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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Rolls-Royce Designing Micro-nuclear Reactors for Space Exploration

The micro-nuclear reactor features multiple protective layers that encase each uranium particle

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Aditya Saikrishna
Aditya Saikrishna
I am 21 years old and an avid Motorsports enthusiast.

UNITED KINGDOM: In an ambitious move towards the future of space exploration, Rolls-Royce has released a preliminary design of a micronuclear reactor. 

Space agencies can use the reactor to power astronaut bases on the moon or Mars. It can even help shorten the travel time to the Red Planet.

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Rolls-Royce, a UK-based company, announced the news after signing an agreement with the United Kingdom Space Agency to study future nuclear power options for space exploration.

The micro-nuclear reactor system designed by Rolls-Royce is designed to withstand extreme conditions as each uranium particle is encased in multiple protective layers that act as a containment system. 

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Nuclear systems have been flown on robotic space missions before, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) have provided electricity for many probes, including NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2. 

However, RTGs are not fission reactors but instead convert the heat thrown off by the decay of radioactive material into electricity.

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Despite concerns about safety for astronauts, portability, and longevity in a harsh and rugged environment, nuclear power remains a staple of space exploration both in reality and science fiction. 

NASA and DARPA recently announced their plans to build a nuclear thermal rocket by 2027, bringing the possibility of fission reactors in space closer to reality. 

Nuclear fusion is the power source of the sun and other stars and could also be a part of humanity’s spaceflight portfolio in the future, although it has yet to be harnessed on Earth.

Rolls-Royce’s design of a micro-nuclear reactor is a step forward in the ambitious goal of exploring space and colonising other planets.

Using nuclear power in space exploration poses some concerns, such as safety for astronauts, portability, and longevity in a harsh environment. 

Despite these challenges, nuclear power is still crucial for space exploration, as seen in science fiction and real-life missions. 

The technology even played a role in the 2015 film “The Martian,” where astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) dug up a buried reactor to provide warmth. 

With NASA’s plans to build a nuclear thermal rocket, the future of space exploration is looking brighter, with the potential of nuclear power being harnessed to power astronaut bases and even reduce travel time to other planets.

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