This project, spearheaded by Dr. Phylis Makurunje and Professor Simon Middleburgh of Bangor’s Nuclear Futures Institute, is part of eight initiatives funded by the UK Space Agency.
They are working with big names like Rolls-Royce, NASA, and the National Nuclear Laboratory.
The Nitty-Gritty of the Fuel
The fuel is developed using TRISO particles, about the size of poppy seeds. Unlike typical nuclear fuel, this one is designed to withstand extreme conditions.
It has to survive the turbulence of a rocket launch and then function efficiently for about 15 years.
The fuel is still undergoing tests and needs regulatory approval, but it represents progression for lunar bases and perhaps even deeper space missions.
NASA has its eyes set on putting astronauts on the Moon by 2025 through its Artemis mission.
Long-term stay requires a stable and efficient power source, and that’s what Bangor University is aiming to provide. NASA also aims to establish a lunar base by 2030, and this project fits perfectly within that timeline.
Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce secured funding to construct a nuclear reactor on the Moon. The Bangor University fuel could play a vital role in this reactor.
International cooperation is strong, with parties such as NASA and the National Nuclear Laboratory also involved in the project.
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Bangor University isn’t just about research; it’s also about training the next generation.
Professor Middleburgh spoke about a new general engineering program designed for undergraduates interested in areas like space reactors and nuclear medicine.
Beyond the Moon
India’s recent lunar mission has also focused on the Moon’s south pole to find water-based ice for habitation.
The Bangor University project could complement missions like this by offering another way to sustain life in space.
Legal and Commercial Considerations
Space law, mostly formed in the 1960s, is now quite out-of-date given today’s advancements. Tim Marshall, a geopolitical author, warned of the need for updated laws.
According to him, without these, space becomes a free-for-all zone that carries its own risks.
What Are The Next Considerations?
Bangor University’s project doesn’t stop at lunar bases; they are also considering Earth applications like disaster zones where electricity is scarce.
The team is also working on nuclear systems to power rockets. Dr. Makurunje mentioned that their new technology could nearly cut in half the time it takes to reach Mars.
Making Wales Proud
This research puts Wales on the global stage of scientific innovation. As Professor Middleburgh said, “It’s every kid’s dream to play around with the space race.”
Now, not only are they playing, but they’re also making significant contributions to it.
Bangor University’s fuel development project is a step for a university, but it might just be a giant one for sustainable life beyond Earth.