JAXA and Toyota consider exploring space together
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation announced they will consider collaborating on international space exploration. As a first step, the two companies agreed to further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study of a manned, pressurized rover that employs fuel-cell electric vehicle technologies. Such a form of mobility is deemed necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km (6200 mi).
JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata noted that JAXA is studying scenarios and technologies that will be applied to specific space missions. He said, “Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.”
He continued, "Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment. For wide-ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota's 'space mobility' concept meets such mission requirements. Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May of 2018.”
Wakata stated that, so far, the joint study has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurized rover system. He said, “We have identified the technological issues that must be solved. Going forward, we want to utilize Toyota's and JAXA's technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.”
Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said, “Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA.”
Terashi noted, "Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel-cell electric vehicles. For electrification, fuel-cell batteries represent an indispensable technology. Fuel-cell electric vehicles have the ability to emit reduced amounts of harmful substances, such as particulate matter, that are found in the air they take in. As such, they are characterized by having so-called 'minus emission.’ We want to further improve on this characteristic.”
The concept proposal for the pressurized rover under study by JAXA and Toyota is 6.0 m long, 5.2 m wide, and 3.8 m high (20 x 17 x 12 ft). It will feature a living space of 13 m3 (459 ft3) and be capable of accommodating two people (four people in an emergency).