Toyota and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have ended their negotiations and signed a three-year agreement to pursue the development of creating a manned, pressurised lunar rover. The vehicle would make use of Toyota's fuel cell technology to travel around on the moon.
The newly outlined timetable has Toyota and JAXA drawing up final specifications for the rover during the fiscal year 2019. Manufacturing of the necessary components would begin in 2020. Testing of the parts would happen in 2021.
According to the preliminary parameters, the lunar rover would measure 6 meters long, 5.2 meters wide, and 3.8 meters wide. There would be 13 cubic meters of space on the inside and enough room for two people to operate there. In addition to a fuel cell powertrain, there would be a deployable solar cell for charging onboard batteries.
JAXA wants astronauts to be able to operate from the rover for six weeks at a time, and the vehicle could cover 621 miles (1,000 kilometres). The cabin would be pressurised so that people wouldn't need to wear their suits during that lengthy period.
The groups want to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2022, and they want a full-production variant with the necessary packaging to fit into a rocket by 2027. The 40-minute video below delves deeply into the details of what the groups hope to create.
If this rover ever reaches the moon, JAXA intends to use for exploring the polar regions there, including investigating the frozen water in this area. The organisation also believes that innovations from this machine could contribute to creating transportation methods to cover the surface of other large planets at some point in the far-flung future.
Gallery: Toyota Lunar Rover Concept
JAXA AND TOYOTA COMMENCE JOINT RESEARCH INTO MANNED, PRESSURISED LUNAR ROVER
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) today announced they have signed a three-year joint research agreement, running from the fiscal years 2019 to 2021. On 12 March 2019, the two parties announced their agreement to consider collaboration on joint research into a manned, pressurised lunar rover that uses fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.
Over the course of the three-year joint research period, JAXA and Toyota will manufacture, test and evaluate prototypes, with the goal of developing a manned, pressurised lunar rover and exploring the surface of the moon as part of an international project.
Details of the joint research
Overview of the research to be carried out in each year from 20 June 2019 to the end of fiscal year 2021: –
Fiscal year 2019: identifying technological elements that need to be developed for driving on the surface of the moon; drawing up specifications for a prototype rover*.
Fiscal year 2020: manufacturing test parts for each technological element; manufacturing a prototype rover.
Fiscal year 2021: testing and evaluating both the manufactured test parts and the prototype rover.
*The prototype rover will be a modified version of a standard production vehicle.
JAXA intends to acquire data related to driving technologies in order to develop a manned, pressurised lunar rover. The rover will be used for missions to explore the moon’s polar regions, with the aim both of investigating the possibility of using the moon’s resources – such as frozen water – and acquiring technologies that enable exploration of the surfaces of large planets.
On 1 July 2019, Toyota established a dedicated Lunar Exploration Mobility Works. Toyota plans to extend the department’s workforce to approximately 30 members by the end of the year.
Tentative plan, aiming to launch the lunar rover in 2029.
From 2022: manufacture and evaluation of a 1:1 scale prototype rover; acquisition and verification testing of data on driving systems required to explore the moon’s polar regions.
From 2024: design, manufacture and evaluation of an engineering model of the rover; design of the actual flight model.
From 2027: manufacture and performance and quality testing of the flight model.