[JAXA:0646] Data Acquisition on the Lunar Surface
Data Acquisition on the Lunar Surface with a Transformable Lunar Robot,
Assisting Development of the Crewed Pressurized Rover

May 27, 2021 (JST)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to obtain data on the lunar surface by utilizing a transformable lunar robot. The data collected will aid the design for the studied crewed pressurized rover. The transformable lunar robot is being jointly developed by JAXA, TOMY Company, Ltd. (Tomy Company), Sony Group Corporation (Sony), and Doshisha University. Transportation of the robot to the Moon will be conducted by Japan's ispace, inc. (ispace).

The lunar surface, where the crewed pressurized rover will travel, is a unique environment; the gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth and the surface is covered by regolith, sand on the Moon. As a result of the system conceptual study for the crewed pressurized rover that began in 2019, it was found that data acquisition on the lunar surface is needed for the detailed study of autonomous driving technology and cruising technology to be utilized by the crewed pressurized rover.
In order to acquire this data, a transformable lunar robot (Fig. 1) will be transported to the lunar surface by ispace's lunar lander (Fig. 2) (to be launched in 2022). While the robot travels on the lunar surface, images on behavior of the regolith, and images of lunar surface taken by the robot and the camera on the lunar lander will be sent to the mission control center via the lunar lander.
The acquired data will be used for evaluation of the localization algorithm and the impact of the regolith on driving performance of the crewed pressurized rover. ispace was selected as a result of an open bidding process for the lunar transportation of the transformable lunar robot and data acquisition and sighed a contract in April 2021.
A joint study on the transformable lunar robot has started since 2016 under the framework of the Request For Proposal (RFP) from the JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub, JAXA and TOMY Company, joined by Sony in 2019 and Doshisha University in 2021. The transformable lunar robot will be an ultra-compact and ultra-lightweight robot that can traverse in the harsh lunar environment by employing the miniaturization technologies of TOMY Company and Doshisha University, the control technologies of Sony, and the development technologies for handling the space environment of JAXA. The robot has a feature to transform into a running form after arriving at the lunar surface, which contributes to a reduction in volume during transportation to the Moon. Therefore, it is expected to play active roles in future lunar exploration missions as well.
JAXA will continue to conduct studies for realizing international space exploration by utilizing the lunar landing opportunities and technologies offered by commercial companies.

Fig. 1 Transformable lunar robot (left: before transformation, right: after transformation)

※Specifications of the transformable lunar robot (tentative)
Size: approx. 80mm in diameter (before transformation)
Weight: approx. 250g

Fig. 2 Lunar lander

※Reference links
The crewed pressurized rover: https://global.jaxa.jp/press/2019/03/20190312a.html
JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub: https://www.ihub-tansa.jaxa.jp/english/index.html


National Research and Development Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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