Honda Motor Co. is boldly going where no other Japanese automaker has gone before: space.
The company announced on September 30 that it plans to enter the space business, including placing robots on the moon and developing technology that allows humans on their way to Mars to live there.
Its first objective is to develop a rocket capable of launching a satellite within the next decade.
The company, including the company philosophy has long encouraged to come up with new ideas outside the box, is the first national automaker to express interest in entering the space sector.
Honda officials said they plan to develop avatar robots capable of operating on the moon.
The initial rockets to be developed would seek suborbital launches of small satellites that could be used for communications or Earth observation. The initial launch would place the satellites at altitudes of around 100 kilometers, with additional work to increase the altitude.
Honda has asked some of its young engineers to start working on rocket technology from the end of 2019 by applying combustion technology obtained through engine development.
Because the moon is intended as a transit point for travel and exploration of Mars, Honda will also be working on technology to enable people to live on the moon.
Honda is working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a system to produce the water and oxygen needed to survive on the moon.
The company also hopes to develop avatar robots that would be remotely controlled from Earth from the 2030s and beyond when various projects roll out to the moon.
Due to the communication delay between Earth and Moon, the end goal is to use artificial intelligence in avatar robots to predict what the robot operator will want to do based on visual perception and movement of robot arm to ensure proper operation. functioning.
The global scale of the space industry in 2040 is expected to triple from around 40 trillion yen ($ 359 billion) in 2020, according to the NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting Inc.
But with venture capitalists also getting into satellite launches, Honda will face stiff competition in the new industry. And due to the high development costs associated with the space industry, it won’t be easy for Honda to make a profit.
Honda has already started to develop an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft capable of carrying four people.
Testing of a prototype is expected to begin in North America from 2023, with eVTOL expected to be commercialized after 2030.
Honda is entering a new industry in part because its primary automotive business has not experienced the growth initially anticipated.
While the company had set a target in the 2010s of 6 million cars sold worldwide, the target was not met and the company announced the closure of its Sayama plant in Saitama prefecture. during fiscal year 2021.
In October 2020, Honda announced that it was ending its participation as a supplier of racing engines to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the end of the 2021 season.
Honda also announced in April that all vehicles sold in 2040 will be electric or fuel cell vehicles. This target was set even though the two types of vehicles now represent less than 1% of all Honda vehicles sold worldwide.