The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Honda R&D Co.,Ltd. (Honda) have announced a plan to begin a joint feasibility study on a ‘circulative renewable energy system’ in space.

This system is designed to help supply oxygen, hydrogen, and electricity, ultimately creating an environment in space where people can inhabit and also conduct activities for extended durations.

For human life to thrive in space, there is a strong dependency upon a multitude of different factors, including a constant supply of water, food, oxygen, and hydrogen for fuel and electricity.

For the supply to become more sustainable, reliable, and potentially less expensive, the joint research will begin studying a circulative renewable energy system.

This will take a high differential pressure water electrolysis system that produces oxygen and hydrogen using solar energy to electrolyse water to combine it with a fuel cell system that generates electricity and water from oxygen and hydrogen.

For example, the oxygen will be utilised by astronauts themselves, while the hydrogen will be used as fuel and the electricity generated from the fuel cell system will have the ability to power outposts and Moon rovers.

Hiroshi Sasaki, JAXA Vice President and Director General for Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, spoke about the study, saying, “Oxygen, hydrogen, and electricity are essential to human activities in space.”

“Realising a circulative renewable energy system will enable us to obtain these requirements in space without relying on resupply from Earth. This is expected to dramatically expand our activities in space.”

A three-fiscal year joint research agreement was signed between JAXA and Honda in November 2020 to pursue research on the energy system for use on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (Gateway) and on the surface of the Moon.

Study conditions during the research have been developed by JAXA, based upon the scenarios and requirements for missions related to the production of oxygen on the Gateway and the supply of electricity to rovers on the lunar surface based on the past investigations.

Honda has been conducting technological studies to realise the missions and scenarios set by JAXA.

Speaking about the potentially of the joint venture, Ikuo Takeishi, COO, Innovative Research Excellent, Power Unit & Energy at Honda R&D Co., Ltd., said, “Honda is striving to realise an enjoyable and sustainable society and to serve people worldwide with the joy of expanding their life’s potential on the ground, in the ocean, in the skies, and in space.”

“Through this joint research we are taking on a challenge to utilise technologies we have amassed to date and expand the sphere of human habitation into outer space, which will expand human potential.”

The imminent feasibility study will examine issues on component technologies of the circulative renewable energy system which were identified by the research conducted the year previously.

In the next fiscal year (JFY 2022), JAXA and Honda plan to reflect the results of this year’s study on the viability evaluation of the whole system.