Город: Москва
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Город: Москва
Ваш регион
8 800 300-65-10

Bridgestone to work on moon rover wheels

Bridgestone Americas Inc. is preparing to take its partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to new heights.

The firm is working with JAXA and Toyota Motor Corp. to develop equipment for an international space exploration mission to the moon by 2029, said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer for Bridgestone Americas.

Bridgestone has been working with JAXA for about 10 years, consulting on projects relating to mobility in space. As JAXA put together plans for a mission with a larger contingency going to the moon, it began work with Toyota for the development and construction of a crewed, pressurized rover. The companies decided that the right partner to engineer the necessary tires for the rover was Bridgestone, Mr. Trigui said.

"Toyota is the main developer for the specialized moon rover. We're going to be responsible for design, development and supply of the wheel assembly," Mr. Trigui said. Bridgestone also will provide consultation for JAXA and Toyota as the wheels are integrated into the space-ready equipment.

The wheel and contact patch will not be constructed like a typical tire, Mr. Trigui said. For a start, it will be non-pneumatic, to cope with the different conditions of space travel.

"There are unique challenges. The environment, as you can imagine, is very, very harsh," he said. The temperature is prohibitive for rubber, and though the surface looks like it's covered in dust, the terrain is also hostile to the material.

"We think about it almost like soil or dust. It's actually shards. They actually cut as they touch everything. It's amazing. Then of course, there are craters, there are boulders, so it has to resist impact from that."

Even with the list of obstacles, he said the project is a good challenge for Bridgestone. The team has concepts that have been developed in the past, and are coming up with multiple potential solutions working toward what best leverages past ideas and collected information. One resource Bridgestone definitely isn't lacking in for the assignment is employees eager to get involved.

"We have so many teammates volunteering, raising their hands. They want to be on this project," Mr. Trigui said. "They say the same thing, they want to be involved for the fun of it."

The team will develop an elastic wheel that will stand up to the rover's mobility requirements, including weight, acceleration and braking, as well as deal with bumps. The rover, a sizable piece of equipment, will carry two astronauts along with equipment over a wide range of the moon's surface, about 6,200 miles, Mr. Trigui said.

Working with JAXA on the crewed rover project fits with Bridgestone's expertise in mobility along with its corporate mission to serve society with its corporate social responsibility commitment, "Our way to serve," he said. Space exploration is one of the next challenges for humanity, whether it leads to future space mining or human sustainability.

An example of a contact patch, which has to stand up to tough conditions in a moon exploration mission.

"Exploration is very important to society and to humanity as a whole," he said. "We want to be part of that."

Taking on a highly technical project like space exploration requires a lot of changes in the usual lines of thought, and he said Bridgestone will benefit from that creativity.