Japanese car manufacturer, Honda, has announced its intention to develop small reusable rockets with a cumulative carrying capacity lesser than a ton. The company projects it will spend around $45 billion (290.2 billion yuan) within the next six years on research and development. The research and development spending will focus on three key areas: rockets, robots, and flying cars. However, the specific amount that will be spent on developing the rockets was not specified.
Honda espouses the idea that the development of rockets is but an extension of its automobile development work. Regarding this, Marcos Frommer, Head of Corporate Communications at Honda states, “Core technologies in these areas are connected to our existing businesses and we are pursuing these new areas as an expansion of our core business as a mobility company.”
The company announced on Thursday that it hopes to develop and launch a test flight rocket in the 2020s. This test flight will bear a satellite. This is not an entirely new project for the automaker who has been working on ensuring the company enters the space industry in the future. Honda hopes to build the rocket for reusability by allowing some of its components to land back on Earth after launch.
Why Launch a Rocket?
Owing to the increased demand for imaging and communications globally, there is also a growing demand for small satellites. However, there is an insufficient supply of rocket launchers for these small satellites. Having established a rocket and other space professional development team in 2019, Honda is seeking to develop small rockets that can carry satellites weighing less than 1 ton.
These rockets will utilize the combustion technology accumulated by automobile gasoline engines in engine injection and apply autonomous driving technology in rocket control and navigation. By using the autopilot technology to reuse rockets, the launch cost will be significantly reduced ( reports suggest up to about 5 billion yen reduction.)
Based on Yomiuri Shimbun reports, the rocket will be able to transport satellites to an altitude of 2,000 kilometers.
Honda will Succeed Despite Competition – CEO
With over 100 companies already working on small rockets, Honda is entering a competitive market. However, with a forecast suggesting that the small satellite launch business will be worth $7.1 billion in 2025, up from $2.8 billion in 2020, this may very well be the best time for any company to venture in.
Elon Musk-owned company, SpaceX is the biggest player in the industry and its midsize Falcon 9 can launch many small satellites at once. Despite the late entry, Honda’s CEO is optimistic about the company’s chances given their previous experience. He stated,
“Technologies for rocket combustion and control and lower costs are already in the hands of automakers. We will just change the field where the technologies are applied.”