UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce Defence team up to study nuclear propulsion

Date:15 January 2021 Author: Kyro Mitchell

The UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce Defence have teamed up to explore the potential of using nuclear power as a source of energy to make deep space exploration possible in the near future.

The partnership will see a team of planetary scientists work together to explore nuclear propulsion, which would involve channeling energy released by splitting atoms to accelerate propellants.

Scientists have long believed that nuclear propulsion could revolutionise the way we travel, especially in space. Some estimates even suggest a nuclear propulsion engine could be twice as efficient as regular chemical-based engines used in modern-day rockets. In fact, some researchers believe a rocket that makes use of nuclear propulsion can travel to Mars in around 3 to 4 months. For comparison, modern-day rockets take around six to eight months to get to the big red planet, depending on Mars and the Earth’s orbits at the time of the launch.

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway says the partnership with Rolls-Royce could help send the next generation of astronauts into space for faster and longer missions. Research and development of nuclear space power could also create a number of new skilled jobs across the UK.

According to Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, “Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond.

“This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before,” Turnock added.


Picture: Twitter/@RollsRoyce

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