Here's how Toyota plans to build a lunar rover for Japan
It was announced back in March with little supporting information.
Andrew KrokReviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Following the initial announcement from March, Toyota this week unveiled a road map that lays out how the automaker will develop, build and test its rover for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The plan covers just about every year from 2019 to 2027, with the company hoping to put the rover in service in 2029.
The first stage will involve joint research with Toyota and JAXA. In the 2019 fiscal year, the two will look at what technological steps need to be developed for driving on the moon's surface, and a prototype rover will be drawn up. In fiscal year 2020, test parts and a prototype rover will be manufactured. Finally, in FY2021, the test parts and prototype rover will be tested and evaluated.
From that point, things will get really real. In 2022, Toyota will build and evaluate a full-scale rover prototype, as well as further evaluating its drive systems. In 2024, the actual rover's design will be created, in addition to an engineering model. Finally, in 2027, the flight-ready version of the rover will be manufactured and tested, leading to a planned launch in 2029.
While Toyota hasn't offered up much in the way of information, it did release several conceptual renderings showing a six-wheeled craft that will house two astronauts. It's about the size of two microbuses, and it will utilize a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain that will convert compressed hydrogen gas into the electricity required to run the rover and its associated systems.
To achieve these goals, Toyota this month established a department of the company dedicated specifically to the rover. The automaker said in a release that its Lunar Exploration Mobility Works will grow to 30 employees by the end of 2019.