UK Space Agency Supports Nuclear Projects For Space Exploration

On 7th March, the UK Space Agency announced new funding to support space exploration using nuclear power and Moon resources.

The investments focus on projects that could revolutionise deep space exploration, making it safe and efficient by using remote technologies and supplies found in space to sustain astronauts and spacecraft.

Some projects include testing improved systems for recycling breathing gases while in space, enhanced methods for extracting valuable resources, such as oxygen and metals, from Moon rock (known as in-situ resource utilisation) and new nuclear power processes for propulsion.

Other innovations involve the creation of remote equipment that scientists can use to run experiments on biological models in deep space from Earth, enabling them to better understand the impact of space on human health and begin designing medical treatments for astronauts.

The agency has so announced £1,6 million (€1,8 million) funding for the eight projects through its Enabling Space Exploration fund on Mars Day, led by STEM Learning to celebrate innovations in space exploration and promote career opportunities in the sector.

Among those projects, Bangor University focuses on nuclear thermal fuel systems and thermal-based characterisation. The project led by the Welsh university will demonstrate the additive manufacturing techniques to create nuclear-based fuels (metallic and ceramic zirconium-containing nuclear fuels) for space propulsion and assess their performance.

Furthermore, the University of Southampton will develop a coherent design concept of a nuclear fission power system to drive space exploration to be integrated with a high-power electric propulsion technology. Substantial high power electric propulsion systems are needed to make large-scale activity near and further from the Earth feasible and nuclear fission reactors are required to power them.

Read more on UK Space Agency Press Release.

Last September, the European Nuclear Society High Scientific Council launched its Position Paper “Nuclear Energy for Space Exploration“, which focuses on the crucial role of nuclear energy and on nuclear solutions for deep space exploration.

The Position Paper, highly appreciated by the scientific community, has been presented at a special event, organised in Brussels under the Czech EU Presidency and in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic.

The event involved high-level stakeholders and expertsEU institutionsacademiaresearch institutes, and space industry representatives.

Nuclear Energy for Space Exploration” has been recorded and is available on ENS YouTube Channel.