Toyota Motor Corporation and the Japanese Space Agency JAXA start their research and development work on a manned fuel cell powered spacecraft. Within the framework of the three-year project, prototypes will be jointly manufactured, tested and evaluated. The goal is the development of a manned rover with pressurized cabin, with which the lunar surface can be explored in the context of international projects.
The carmaker and the space agency have been working on corresponding rover studies since May 2018: the first models, which are also designed for automated driving, show vehicles in which up to four astronauts can live without space suits in a cabin measuring up to 13 square meters. The fuel cell propulsion system is expected to enable ranges of more than 10,000 kilometers.
Past March, an intensification of cooperation was announced. In the first year of the project, which will initially run until the end of fiscal 2021, the technological elements required for driving on the lunar surface will be identified. In addition, precise specifications will be drawn up for a rover prototype, which will initially be based on a production vehicle. On July 1, 2019, Toyota founded the Lunar Exploration Mobility Works, whose department is to be expanded to around 30 members by the end of the year.
In the coming year, a first prototype and certain technological elements are to be built, which will be subjected to various tests from the fiscal year 2021 onwards. The aim is to launch a manned space mission as early as 2029 after further testing, improvements and the development of models ready for series production.
Toyota also gave details of the schedule, at least for the next couple of years. According to that, in fiscal year 2019, the technological elements required for driving on the lunar surface are to be identified; in addition, the specifications of the Rover prototype are to be worked out.
For the fiscal year 2020, the project partners are planning the production of test components for the technical elements and the manufacture of the prototype. In fiscal year 2012, the test components will be tested and the results subsequently evaluated.