Japanese contractor Kajima plans to team up with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) to develop automated construction machinery to work on construction projects on Mars and the moon.
Nikkei Asian Review reports that the project will be an extension of Kajima’s A4CSEL system, an abbreviation that stands for Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability. This allows operators to control machinery from a remote location using tablet computers, as well as GPS and accelerometer chips.
The system was used last year to build dams in Fukuoka and Oita prefectures in southern Japan. According to Kajima, networked bulldozers carried out "simple and repetitive" construction operations with "high precision".
The company comments on its website that automated construction in large civil engineering schemes can compensate for the shortage of skilled workers and increase productivity. In an extraterrestrial setting, the concept could prepare the site for a building or launch pad and carry dirt.
Kajima intends to develop its A4CSEL software so that the machines can communicate with each other to avoid repeating work or colliding with each other. This is necessary because the delay in sending signals from Earth would make them difficult to control in real time.
In January, Jaxa selected Kajima’s idea to develop machinery for construction in space for its Space Exploration Innovation Hub project, a three-way programme among businesses, the government and academia. An indoor experiment will be held sometime after April next year at Jaxa’s Sagamihara Campus in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
Kajima and Jaxa are aiming to have software and hardware ready to be used in the next 15 to 25 years.
As well as Kajima, Jaxa is working with a number of other Japanese contractors on research projects. It has given the Taguchi Industrial Company the job of developing ultra-lightweight construction machinery, which would be easier to lift out of Earth’s gravity well.
Tokyu Construction Company is researching ways of creating construction materials from "in situ resources" – in other words, making bricks from moon dust without the aid of water.
The Takenaka Corporation has been given funding to develop "adaptive robots" that will be able to tackle more complex construction tasks, and Sakai Heavy Industries is looking into the problem of low gravity soil compaction.
Other programmes involve developing rechargeable fuel cells, "insect-like robots" for "walking/jumping exploration".
Photograph: Automated rollers at work on a dam in Fukuoka Prefecture last year (Kajima Corporation)