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Honda is developing a reusable rocket for low-earth orbit satellites

ByJerzy Nawrocki

Oct 18, 2021

Honda, a Japanese automaker, is working on an essentially reusable launch vehicle for tiny satellites, with a test launch scheduled for 2030. The business announced the proposal on September 30, stating that the rocket will use its core automotive technology for remote control, combustion, fluid, and guidance.

This is part of Honda’s Vision 2030, which includes plans to expand the company’s business portfolio to include flying automobiles, also defined as the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, a multi-fingered avatar robot, and energy production on the moon’s surface. This multipronged plan, in turn, might lead to more linked devices — everything from cars to appliances to utilities — and new services and revenue prospects on Earth and in space.

“Automakers already have technologies for the rocket combustion and control, as well as lower costs. According to Nikkei Asia, Honda Chief Executive Officer Toshihiro Mibe stated, “We will just alter the field where the innovations are utilized.” Honda says it started working on the engineering specifications for a reusable rocket in late 2019. “This rocket development was sparked by a suggestion by Honda engineers who sought to build a small rocket using core technologies,” the firm stated in a statement released on September 30.

Over the next six years, the automaker plans to spend $45 billion (5 trillion yen) on research and development, but it didn’t say how much of that will go into rocket development. While the rocket’s characteristics have yet to be revealed, Nikkei Asia stated that it would utilize liquid propellant and be able to transport satellites weighing less than one tonne to low Earth orbit.

At the level of a human hand, avatar robots are going to be equipped with a multi-fingered hand that can carefully pick up a small object with the fingers while still having the strength to open a tight jar lid, according to Honda. According to Honda, the robot will mostly be utilized as a distant surrogate to conduct activities, such as a paramedic operating the robot to respond to an injured person. However, it did not rule out the prospect of it being utilized in space. According to the business, the robot will begin technical demonstrations in March 2024 and see “real application” in the 2030s.

Honda and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are working together on a feasibility study for a “circulative renewable power system” in space that is intended to supply hydrogen, oxygen, and electricity to crewed lunar orbiters and rovers. With Honda’s fuel-cell and water electrolysis capabilities, they’re looking at the prospect of breaking down the lunar water into oxygen and hydrogen components.

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