Rolls-Royce moves into Leicester space research centre

13 January 2022

British engineering group Rolls-Royce has opened new offices at Space Park Leicester to develop its expertise in nuclear power applications for space. Being based there will enable Rolls-Royce employees to better collaborate with researchers from the University of Leicester.

From left top right, Gary Jones, Abi Clayton and Richard Ambrosi outside the new Rolls-Royce offices (Image: Space Park Leicester)

Rolls-Royce says it is the only company in the world with a singular focus on creating mechanical, electrical and nuclear power solutions that will be essential in tackling the challenges of the future. "Space is one such challenging and growing sector in which Rolls-Royce believe power, propulsion and thermal management will play a significant role," it said.

In January 2021, Rolls-Royce signed an innovative contract with the UK Space Agency for a study into future nuclear power options for space exploration. The company said the contract represents "an exciting opportunity to define and shape the nuclear power solutions required in space in the decades to come."

Space Park Leicester is a GBP100 million (USD137 million) facility designed to enable collaboration between the University of Leicester's researchers and the private sector, creating high quality knowledge-based jobs, building the skills base and contributing to economic growth and resilience of the economy. The project is being led by the University of Leicester in partnership with Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.

Rolls-Royce intends to progress and expand developments in applications for nuclear technologies in space by collaborating closely with Professor Richard Ambrosi, Professor of Space Instrumentation and Space Nuclear Power Systems at the University of Leicester and other experts, making use of their capabilities in the space arena.

"Having the opportunity to have a presence at Space Park Leicester allows us to be close to the action, said Abi Clayton, Director for Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce. "It's also incredibly inspiring to work among scientists from the University of Leicester and representatives from space-related companies.

"Our innovative integrated electric power and thermal management solutions will work alongside our novel nuclear technologies, digital capabilities and engineering excellence to realise our customers' ambitions for exploratory space missions to become a reality."

Gary Jones, Head of Manufacturing Innovation at Rolls-Royce, said: "Our presence at Space Park Leicester is a really good opportunity for our people that are specifically working on the Space Programme to immerse themselves in all things space. Rolls-Royce is the UK's nuclear thought leader and what we bring is unique. The expertise and just sheer innovation and brain power of some of our people is incredible and its tremendously exciting to surround ourselves with like-minded people."

Professor Ambrosi said the presence of Rolls-Royce at Space Park Leicester and its work in leading the development of space reactor systems will enable Leicester researchers to collaborate with the company on a range of space mission concepts and technology solutions. He added, "We welcome the opportunity to grow our portfolio of research in space nuclear power technologies, built on our heritage in radioisotope power systems."

Rolls-Royce said the "multi-domain applicability" of emerging nuclear power solutions will mean the options outlined by the company will also have strong commercial and defence terrestrial use-cases, creating world-leading nuclear power capability for multiple markets and operator needs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News