According to The Mail on Sunday, Rolls-Royce is developing a nuclear reactor to power mining operations on the Moon and even Mars. Earlier this year, the company and the UK Space Agency released a joint study into nuclear power options for space rockets.
The company is investigating how a micro-nuclear reactor could be used to propel rockets at high speeds while in space, 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 Dave Gordon, head of the company’s defense division, this work is made possible by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and their respective space companies.
He went on to say that Rolls-Royce is the only company on the planet that does mechanical, electrical, and nuclear engineering, as well as a full end-to-end nuclear lifecycle.
He also mentioned that the company could use its 60-year experience developing nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Navy to apply what it had learned to spacecraft because submarines and spacecraft are somewhat similar.
They are both “non-air breathing environments with long endurance and a very dense power source.”
Gordon concluded by emphasizing the scarcity of rare earth metals on Earth, which can instead be found on other planets and the moon. This is why he believes Moon and Mars mining will take place during his lifetime.
These new activities, according to Gordon, will have to be powered by nuclear energy because solar isn’t an option at such great distances. Rolls-Royce is not the only company with such lofty ambitions.
Three companies, Lunar Outpost, Honeybee Robotics, and Masten Space Systems, are working on a novel system to mine water ice from the moon using rockets. They hope to meet their goal by 2023.
In addition, NASA awarded a $500,000 grant to a team of researchers from the University of Arizona to develop space-mining methods. They’re working on a swarm of self-driving robots that can search for and mine for rare earth metals on the Moon.
It has also been speculated that the world’s first trillionaires will be those who make a fortune from asteroid mining. People like renowned futurist Peter Diamandis, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and financial firm Goldman Sachs have predicted this fact.