London and Rolls-Royce work on nuclear propulsion for spacecraft

Nuclear propulsion would make it possible to reach Mars twice as fast as with the current system of chemical propulsion.

The British space agency announced Tuesday to launch a study with the industrial group Rolls-Royce on the possible use of nuclear propulsion in space exploration. This technology could be much more efficient than the engines used today and could reach Mars in 3 or 4 months, twice as fast as chemical propulsion, according to a statement.

For now, it is only research and not an industrial phase, with the aim of transforming space exploration in the decades to come. The British space agency believes that nuclear propulsion can “revolutionize»Space travel, the atom being used to accelerate propellants such as hydrogen.

«Transforming space exploration»

«Nuclear power offers possibilities to transform space exploration and this innovative study with Rolls-Royce could help transport the next generation of astronauts further into space and for longer, so as to improve our knowledge of the world. ‘universeSaid Secretary of State for Science Amanda Solloway. Rolls-Royce manufactures aircraft engines for aviation and for the navy and has experience with nuclear reactors which it designs for military submarines. The group is also developing a project for 16 mini nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom to produce electricity.

«We believe there is a niche competence in the UK in this area and this initiative can strengthen our strong nuclear network and supply chainSays Dave Gordon, a Rolls-Royce manager.

Nuclear power would make it possible to stay in space longer, especially in places far from the sun where solar panels, for example, do not provide enough energy. The British agency recalls that nuclear propulsion is an idea that has existed since the 1950s when the United States tried to develop a rocket powered by mini atomic bombs.

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