Honda to Build Reusable Rockets to Challenge SpaceX, Virgin Oribit

A Honda auto dealer in, Lewiston, Idaho. Don and Melinda Crawford / UCG / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Within a few years, the manufacturer of the Honda Civic and CR-V could operate air cabs above cities and launch available rockets into Earth orbit such as SpaceX and Rocket Lab.

Last week, Japanese auto giant Honda announced a big ten -year plan that involves building flying cars, robots and small reusable rockets that can carry satellites weighing less than 1 tonne. in low Earth orbit before 2030.

The carmaker, with a market cap of $ 55 billion, plans to invest $ 45 billion over the next six years in research and development of new projects and expects to create a rocket division the size of a de -electric vehicles.

This idea to produce reusable rockets was initiated by “young Honda engineers” who wanted to use the company’s “core technologies, such as combustion and control technologies” in new areas, Honda said in a press release on Sept. 30.

Specifically, Honda said it will apply combustion technology developed for gas cars to produce a liquid fuel system for rockets and autonomous driving technology to control rocket flight and guidance. The company formed a team of combustion engineers in 2019 and built a prototype rocket engine.

“The technologies for combustion and rocket control and lower costs are already in the hands of automakers. We’re just going to change the field in which the technologies are applied,” Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe said. Japan’s Nikkei Asia.

“This is not surprising, and Honda is not the first auto company to enter the galaxy industry recently,” said Micah Walter-Range, President of Caelus Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in the commercial galaxy industry. Chinese automaker Geely is working on a satellite network to support self-drive cars.

“The company’s reasonable offer makes sense,” Walter-Range added. “They know how to make highly reliable components on a large scale, and they have engineering expertise that can be applied to the rocketry challenge.”

Honda’s rocket initiative will put the 73-year-old automaker into a tough race against billionaire and SPAC-backed companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit and Rocket Lab.

All of these companies — many of them unprofitable — are betting on the emerging business of small satellite launches. Demand for low Earth orbit imaging and communications satellites has increased in recent years. Ni an estimate, of market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the small satellite launch industry is on track to grow from $ 4 billion to $ 7.2 billion by the year 2026.

But the options for launching these satellites are still limited and largely dominated by a handful of companies. Competition is fierce to lower the cost of launch. Delivering a full load of satellites into Earth orbit using a SpaceX Falcon 9 costs up to $ 70 million per launch, which is cheaper than traditional single used rockets. SpaceX has made it cheaper for small satellite makers through a satellite “ride-share” program. And its competitors, such as Rocket Lab, have been able to significantly lower the prices of each launch of making smaller reusable boosters.

Honda says these available rockets will be able to launch satellites for half the cost today. However, it’s hard to say how hostile that proposal will be in ten years when its rockets are finally ready to go commercial.

Honda plans to build the first available rocket and test launch it on a satellite before the end of this decade.

Forget the Honda Civic - Japanese Auto Giant Aims for Space Industry in the Grand 2030 Plan

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