Fly me to the Moon: Komatsu developing technology for lunar construction equipment

Komatsu has announced its participation in a project that promotes the development of innovative technologies for outer space autonomous construction, which is managed by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in collaboration with Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The project is part of MLIT’s strategic programme for accelerating research, development and utilisation of space technology (Stardust Programme). Komatsu’s proposal on the development of digital twin technology for lunar construction equipment has been chosen as an “eligible target” of technology related to autonomous construction (automation and remote control).

All selected companies and organisations will conduct research and development of their individual  technologies, under the leadership of the Council of Promoting the Development of Innovative Technologies for Autonomous Construction, an inter-ministry collaboration body. With this initiative, Komatsu expects to contribute towards Japan’s achievement of advanced construction and research and development of outer space construction activities, such as on the Moon.

In the ongoing three-year, mid-term management plan, to be completed in the fiscal year ending on 31 March 2022, Komatsu is working to achieve “safe, highly productive, smart and clean workplaces of the future” by advancing products (automation and autonomy of machines) and processes (optimisation of construction operations). The company will utilise the technologies in these products and processes for the development of digital twin technology for lunar construction equipment.

According to Komatsu, because it is complicated to approach actual objects on the Moon’s surface, the digital twin technology is essential in this case as it can precisely recreate site conditions and machines. The company will conduct a feasibility study to verify the possibility of developing high-precision digital twin technology, which is “the basic technology of lunar construction equipment.”

Specifically, Komatsu plans to create and operate a hydraulic excavator in cyberspace and compare its movements with actual equipment on the Earth to verify the simulator’s precision. The company will also set the surface conditions of the Moon as cyberspace, and check the movements of the excavator in the simulator in order to identify the issues facing its lunar equipment. 

Images: Komatsu