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Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman announced the £2 million boost for 13 new projects during British Science Week (11-20 March), which aims to inspire interest in and celebrate science, engineering, technology and maths for people of all ages.
The projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power station for space that could power the generation of water, breathable oxygen and fuels for solar exploration.
Another will develop new imaging technology which can withstand the high radiation levels on Mars, while a third will build a communications tool for astronauts to tackle the delay in conversations between Mars and Earth. Engineers will also develop a robot that will search for resources such as oxygen and water in Moon rocks.
Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman said, “As we celebrate British Science Week, I am pleased to announce this £2 million package to support 13 new projects for the UK’s brilliant scientists and engineers to help us take significant strides in space exploration and discovery. In addition to discovery breakthroughs, these projects will also ensure that people here on Earth benefit from new technology, including micro-reactor technology with the potential to support our Net Zero commitments.”
Abi Clayton, Future Programmes Director, Rolls-Royce said, ”The support of the UK Space Agency has been instrumental in enabling the continued progress of the Rolls-Royce Micro-Reactor development programme. This shows the true value of public and private partnership as we bring together the space domain experience of the UK Space Agency with our own unique nuclear expertise. Together we can achieve ambitious technological firsts for the UK as we develop the power systems of the future.”
The UK has a leading role in space exploration and invested £180 million over five years in the European Space Agency’s global exploration programme in 2019.
The UK, through Airbus, is leading on the Sample Fetch Rover, which will play a key role in the joint NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return mission – the first mission aiming to bring back samples of Mars to Earth.
The UK is also supporting international efforts to return humans to the Moon, with industry expected to build parts of the Lunar Gateway – a new space station that will orbit the Moon and provide a key stepping stone for human and robotic expeditions to the lunar surface.