Equipment maker Komatsu has been chosen by the government of Japan to develop construction machinery for use on the Moon.
The company has been a leader in the development of smart equipment for use on Earth (see further reading). Now it will put its experience of autonomous machinery and digital twins to work for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).
The project is part of MLIT’s Stardust Programme. The company comments in its press release that it would “diligently conduct research and development … to contribute to Japan’s achievement of advanced outer space construction activities”.
Stardust is a three-year project, due to end in March 2022. Komatsu is hoping to develop machines, software and building techniques to “optimise” work in environments where machines will be required to carry out complex tasks without the physical presence of humans.
According to Komatsu, digital twin technology is essential because it can “precisely recreate site conditions and machines”, making it “the basic technology of lunar construction equipment”.
“Specifically, Komatsu will create and operate a hydraulic excavator in cyberspace and compare its movements with physical equipment to verify the simulation’s precision. Komatsu will also try to recreate the surface conditions of the Moon in cyberspace, and check the movements of the excavator in the simulator in order to identify the issues facing our lunar equipment,” it said.