Honda wants to do serious off-roading.
The Japanese automaker recently announced that it develop a small reusable rocket, as part of a larger vision to expand its operations to the last frontier. Work on the launcher began in late 2019 and Honda already has some serious gear to show: a brand new rocket motor.
During a Zoom call with reporters on October 28, Honda representatives showed a short video of the prototype engine performing a combustion test. Everything seemed to be going well. For example, Mach diamonds – a standing wave pattern which is a common feature of supersonic exhaust gases – were clearly visible in the engine plume.
“We believe we have made huge strides in this development after just two years,” said Atsushi Ogawa, head of operations for innovative research excellence at Honda R&D, during the Zoom call.
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Honda did not provide many details on the engine. The video was black and white for proprietary reasons, and company representatives requested that no screenshots of the test be shared.
Honda envisions the rocket being used to launch payloads weighing up to about 1 ton. The basic plan provides that the launcher has a reusable first stage, but that could change if analyzes show 3D printing or other technologies make a consumable vehicle more profitable, company representatives said on last week’s call.
Honda hopes to perform a suborbital test launch during this decade and then switch to orbital flight from there. But there is no guarantee that the vehicle will actually take off; Honda expects to make a final decision on whether to enter the launch industry in 2025 or 2026, after assessing progress to that point and analyzing the state of the market, company officials said at the time. of the call.
The rocket work is part of a larger alien push from the venerable automaker.
“At Honda, we will accelerate our R&D in the space field, which we see as a place to meet challenges to realize the dreams and potential of people around the world while leveraging our core technologies,” Ogawa said.
For example, in June, Honda and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that they were teaming up to assess the feasibility of a “circulating renewable energy system” that could support rovers and human outposts on the moon. The system would use “Honda’s high differential pressure water electrolysis and fuel cell technologies,” JAXA officials said.
Honda’s robotics research could also have space applications. For example, the company is working to improve robotic autonomy, which would be a big plus in the Last Frontier, company representatives said: It is difficult to control robots far from Earth, being given the communication delay imposed by the large distances involved.
“We believe that this research will lead to an increased use of avatar robots on the surface of the moon and other environments, ”Ogawa said.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about finding alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Where Facebook.