UK Space Agency Backing for Rolls-Royce and BWX Technologies
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This news is classified in: Aerospace Engines / Power / Fuel Space

Apr 8, 2024

UK Space Agency Backing for Rolls-Royce and BWX Technologies Space Reactor Development

Rolls-Royce today announced it has secured funding from Phase 2 of the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund (IBF). The funding enables strategic research partnerships within the UK space sector and emerging space nations to work together.

The new £1.18 million award from the Fund backs collaboration to identify and advance the optimum technologies for a fission nuclear system, benefitting both UK and U.S. space nuclear development programmes for a range of space power missions.

Rolls-Royce is collaborating with U.S. firm BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC (BWXT) to deliver this phase of development, which has been cemented in a Teaming Agreement between the two companies. The agreement facilitates business collaboration and joint developments of new and novel nuclear applications in the space domain, which utilise the core nuclear design and manufacturing strengths of each party.

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This agreement further strengthens UK and U.S. collaboration on first-of-a-kind space technology innovation, as detailed under the Atlantic Declaration commitment. In an announcement made by UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak and U.S. President, Joe Biden on 8th June 2023, both countries pledged to study “opportunities for co-operation on space nuclear power and propulsion.”

BWXT brings extensive experience in nuclear capability in the U.S. having manufactured nuclear components for over 70 years, complementing Rolls-Royce’s comparable experience in the UK. This synergy has built a strong strategic partnership, rooted in the successful delivery of nuclear projects for their respective countries over many decades.
Steve Carlier, President for Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd, said:

We are delighted to win the award for the second phase of the International Bilateral Fund and to be continuing our collaboration with the UK Space Agency and our international project partner BWXT.

"The Teaming Agreement between Rolls-Royce and BWXT brings together over 130 years of safe and secure nuclear delivery on both sides of the Atlantic.

“This new agreement builds on our complimentary core competencies and market knowledge from our respective countries. This enables us to build upon our existing relationship and explore potential strategic relationships and business arrangements to further develop nuclear technologies and products for Space.”
Joe Miller, president of BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC, said:

BWXT and Rolls-Royce share a commitment to creating and delivering nuclear energy systems to explore space, support global security imperatives and generate clean energy.

“Today’s announcement, and our teaming agreement more broadly, allows our companies to use our complementary areas of expertise for this award and new opportunities to come.”

All space missions depend on a power source to support systems for communications, life-support and science experiments. Nuclear power has the potential to dramatically increase the duration of future space missions and their scientific value.

Nuclear power, effectively utilised in space, will deliver a step change in mission capability across an extensive platform of applications. Space micro-reactors are a solution to meet these requirements in a sustainable and resilient way, and this latest award from the UK Space Agency ensures the continued development of this technology.
Professor Anu Ojha, Director of Championing Space at the UK Space Agency, said:

Our International Bilateral Fund bolsters international collaboration that harnesses the UK’s national expertise, supports new space capabilities and catalyses investment. This exciting research by Rolls-Royce to develop space nuclear power is an opportunity to showcase the UK as a spacefaring nation.

“Innovative technologies such as this one could pave the way for continuous human presence on the Moon, whilst enhancing the wider UK space sector, creating jobs and generating further investment.”

This latest tranche of investment follows £2.9 million of funding awarded to Rolls-Royce from the UK Space Agency under the Lunar Surface Nuclear Power Contract and Phase 1 of the IBF project in 2023, which delivered an initial demonstration of a UK lunar modular nuclear reactor.

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