Rolls-Royce micro-reactor could make Mars travel a reality for humans

The future of deep space exploration is here.

Rolls-Royce has unveiled a new image of a micro-reactor for space that is “engineered to use an intrinsically safe and highly durable form of fuel.”
The iconic engineer recently tweeted a photo with a caption. As part of a 2021 contract with the UK Space Agency, it is designing a nuclear fission system.

Nuclear energy systems for space, which use energy from the fission of atoms, have great potential to accelerate space travel and reduce transit. order This could be especially important for sending humans to Mars.


The New Space Micro Nuclear Reactor from Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce image shows the initial phase of the micro-nuclear reactor project, which was built under the company’s 2021 contract with the UK Space Agency. Under the contract, Rolls-Royce will test nuclear power technology for space.

“Each uranium particle is encapsulated in several protective layers that act as a shielding system, allowing it to withstand extreme conditions,” Rolls-Royce wrote with a photo of its micro nuclear reactor design.



Scientists and large organizations are increasingly looking for nuclear fission in space. Last month, for example, NASA and DARPA announced plans to build a working nuclear thermal rocket by 2027.

NASA recently selected a nuclear power concept for Phase I development of its 2023 Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The US space agency has a long history of considering the use of nuclear power in spacecraft. For example, the NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) concept was successfully tested but then released when the Apollo era ended in 1973.
In the early 2000s, NASA’s Prometheus project tested nuclear power concept technologies for long space missions.The project was cancelled in 2005 due to budget constraints.

Ad Astra, a private company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin R. Chang Diaz, conducted a record-breaking 88-hour endurance test in 2021 with an 80 kW Vasimr VX-200SS plasma rocket. Ad Astra claims that nuclear rocket technology could eventually take humans to Mars at approximately 123,000 miles per hour (197,950 km/h).


Why is nuclear fission used in space travel?

When sending a nuclear fission reactor into space, safety is, of course, a priority. Most companies testing the technology have proposed that their systems only trigger the fission reaction once they are already in space. As in the description of Rolls-Royce, there is also a strong emphasis on strong materials that can withstand harsh room conditions.

The benefits of using nuclear power would probably outweigh the risks. In a 2010 interview with Popular Science magazine, Ad Astra’s Chang Daz stated that “chemical rockets won’t get us to Mars.” “It’s just too far.”
Nuclear power could reduce the roughly 8- to 9-mmonth trip to Mars to 45 days with current technology. This would greatly reduce the amount of time astronauts are exposed to radiation and the time before a potentially catastrophic problem occurs.

In principle, nuclear power would make spaceflight significantly safer for astronauts. Space is always an inherently risky endeavor, but faster travel times could greatly reduce the risk while allowing humans to achieve the benefits of long-distance human spaceflight.

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