British space technology could help develop a power station in space, create a robot to search for oxygen and water in lunar rocks, and tackle problems such as the communication delay between Earth and Mars.
The new funding will pave the way for pioneering approaches in energy, communication and resources, thanks to projects from the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).
Projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power plant for space that could enable the generation of breathable oxygen and water.
Another will develop new technology that can withstand the high levels of radiation on Mars, while a third will build a communications tool for astronauts to address the delay in talks between Mars and Earth.
Engineers will also develop a robot that will search for resources such as oxygen and water in lunar rocks.
Science Minister George Freeman announced a £2m increase for 13 new projects during British Science Week (March 11-20).
He said: “In addition to discovery breakthroughs, these projects will also ensure that people here on Earth benefit from new technology, including microreactor technology with the potential to support our net zero commitments.”
Abi Clayton, Director of Future Programs at Rolls-Royce, said: “The UK Space Agency’s support has been instrumental in enabling continued progress of Rolls-Royce’s microjet development programme.
“This shows the true value of public and private partnership as we bring together the space domain expertise of the UK Space Agency with our own unique nuclear expertise.
“Together we can achieve ambitious technology firsts for the UK as we develop the energy systems of the future.”
The UK has invested £180 million over five years in the European Space Agency’s global exploration programme.
It is leading the Sample Fetch Rover, which will play a key role in the joint NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return mission, and is also supporting international efforts to return humans to the Moon, with industry expected to build parts of the Lunar Gateway.