Honda Motor Corporation, Ltd. stated that it will deploy a test rocket by 2030 as part of its plan to join the small satellite launch market, bringing combustion-engine as well as other automotive capabilities to new fields even as the automotive industry changes to electric vehicles. As private corporations look to space as a potential growth area, the satellite launch sector is heating up, with startups like Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s SpaceX joining the fray.
Honda claims that recycling rockets will cut the cost of launching tiny satellites in half. With single-use rockets, such launches can cost up to 5 billion yen ($44.6 million). Honda intends to reuse its rocket plane after returning it to the launch site. The objective is to leverage autonomous technology to make automobiles more affordable to use regularly than its competitors.
The business wants to build a tiny rocket that can transport satellites that weigh less than a ton. Within the next six years, the company plans to increase its R&D spending to a record five trillion yen in order to build the rocket industry into a pillar on a level with the EV sector.
The company will use combustion technology established for gasoline engines in addition to autonomous driving technologies for reusable rocket flight control and guiding. Honda will enhance its prototype engine before joining the commercial market, having established a dedicated team to supervise the satellite launch industry in 2019.
Small satellites for ground observations and communications will be sent into orbit by the rocket at an elevation of 500 km – 2,000 km. Small satellites are projected to find additional uses in the future, such as assessing greenhouse gas concentrations and gathering position data for self-driving vehicles.
Markets and Markets, an Indian research firm, estimates that the small satellite launch market will be valued at $7.1 billion in the year 2025, up from about $2.8 billion last year. According to a corporate executive, Honda opted to enter the race in the hopes of alleviating a rocket scarcity and “helping satisfy the demand for satellite launches.”
Honda’s internal combustion engine expertise will be useful in creating liquid-fuel rockets. Since the end of 2019, the firm has been developing a launch vehicle and has developed a prototype engine in less than two years. Honda’s expertise in reducing vehicle weight should aid in lowering the cost of its rockets.
“Automakers already have technologies for the rocket combustion and control, as well as lower costs. We’ll simply shift the field in which the technologies are used “Toshihiro Mibe, Honda’s CEO stated. Honda is joining a competitive commercial area. More than 100 businesses are known to be working on miniature rockets around the world, with some having already launched them.