Rolls-Royce says working on nuclear reactor for space mining
(Kitco News) - According to a report by The Mail on Sunday, Rolls-Royce is developing a nuclear power reactor that will be capable of powering mining operations on the Moon and even Mars.
Apparently, the firm is researching how a micro nuclear power reactor could be used to propel rockets while in space at huge speeds and how that technology could then be redeployed to provide energy for drilling, processing, and storage for "Moon mining" and possibly "Mars mining."
According to the study, the Moon's main resources include helium-3, a rare element used in industries such as nuclear fusion which could power onward journeys deeper in to space, using the Moon as a refueling station.
The Moon also boasts water, which could be used to sustain life and can be converted to rocket fuel, and rare earth metals used in electronics such as smartphones and the latest cars. Currently, 90 per cent of the world's rare earth metal supply comes from China, the report found.
However, methods of storage and transportation of resources mined on the Moon back to Earth remain a key debate among researchers, the authors of a report pointed out.
Dave Gordon, head of the company's defense division, said this work is possible thanks to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and their respective space companies. He added that Rolls-Royce is the only company globally that does mechanical, electrical, and nuclear and a full end-to-end lifecycle of nuclear capability.
Gordon admitted that to bring the project to fruition would take “hundreds of millions of pounds,” but that early stage work could be achieved for far less.
He added, “There's a huge shortage of rare earth metals. We know they exist on other planets because they all formed from the same thing. This genuinely isn't rocket science. So, mining asteroids, the Moon and Mars will happen, hopefully, in my lifetime.”