Shimizu Corp.

§ 8.3.5 Shimizu Corp Lunar and Orbital Construction

Shimizu Corporation, one of Japan's largest and oldest engineering and construction companies, is continuing to lead the way for Japan, as well as leading the world, into the next generation of engineering and construction. Any entity serious about space construction should look into teaming up with Shimizu, as Shimizu is experienced in practical engineering and construction projects in remote places in the world, which is a natural business model for engineering and construction in remote outer space.

The Space Systems Division within Shimizu Corp. has been performing research and development in utilizing lunar materials for construction, as well as developing robotics systems and designing low Earth orbit stations. (Various flashy media reports have reported on Shimizu's "space hotel", but the journalists totally overlooked the really valuable applications Shimizu was developing, which is typical for the mass media…)

Their lunar and orbital construction information is not up on the web, so I've included it in this book.

Shimizu kindly sent me a folder on their work, from Shimizu Space Systems, which includes eight glossy sheets detailing some of their work (dual Japanese/English), with impressive professional artwork and photos of research activities, as follows:

  • "Construction on the Moon" shows a picture of a lunar base "constructed using concrete from lunar resources" (otherwise known as "lunarcrete"), a picture of a robot excavator, and the interior of the lunar base. Notably, the text mentions inflatable construction techniques and joint studies with McDonnell Douglas Aerospace on a reference design lunar base.
  • "Lunar Resource Utilization" shows a photo of their lunar soil simulant made from Japanese basaltic lava, and compares it to Apollo 11 and Apollo 14 soils in terms of minerology, particle size, and various mechanical properties. They've apparently gone to great lengths to make their simulant very similar to lunar material. On this sheet, they note that "[t]his includes the result of research in 1995 commissioned by National Space Development Agency of Japan."
  • "Lunar Resource Utilization (Oxygen Production)" includes a photo of an experiment in a NASA KC-135 airplane entitled "Lunar Gravity Test of the Fluidized Bed Reactor". A schematic of a Lunar Oxygen Plant shows how they devise to extract oxygen, iron and titania from ilmenite. This is a product of joint research between Shimizu and the U.S. company Carbotek since 1991. A series of tests were conducted on the NASA KC-135 variable gravity test aircraft, and the data is to be "used for sizing reactor components for bench, pilot and full scale operational lunar facilities".
  • "Agriculture Facility on the Moon" shows photos of experiments in growing plants under low total air pressure and varying humidity, and analysis of the plants (e.g., viable cell count, calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals). Selected plants include wheat, soybean, potato, peanut, spinach, komatsuna and tomato.
  • "Truss Assembly Experiment by Robot" shows a photo of a robotic experiment flown in space in mid-1997 by NASDA. "Shimizu Corporation is establishing its own technological bases for economical and safe construction of large scale space systems and is conducting space robotics and remote systems R&D, utilizing its experience in construction robotics systems development and integrating the results of its orbital robotics joint research with Carnegie Mellon University" and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL). The flight will also demonstrate an unmanned rendezvous-docking system. Experiments in space will include teleoperation of the arm from the ground. Shimizu has its own test facility for simulating vibration and shock impulses during launch in order to make payloads reliable.
  • "Space Structures" includes a photo of an experiment in a laboratory with a structure having joints with vibration sensing and damping technology. "Shimizu has made best use of the advanced simulation analysis techniques, hardware technology and structural concepts, so as to realize a large deployable antenna with high accuracy under a collaborated research with the University of Colorado."
  • "Space Tourism (Space Hotel)" pictures a wheel rotating to produce artificial gravity, with zero gravity and low gravity areas in and around the hub. The guest rooms, located on the wheel perimeter, look like they could be converted fuel tanks. They number about 80 or so, and there are gaps which could imply that the hotel is to be further expanded over time. Journalists seize upon this sheet.
  • "The Aerospace Management Challenge" is the last full page glossy, and covers the services of CSP Japan, Inc., an aerospace consulting subsidiary of Shimizu Corporation which was established in 1987 through cooperation with CSP Associates, Inc., a leading analyst of the US and other space and defense programs. CSP Japan, Inc., is apparently a legally separate entity from the Space Systems Division of Shimizu.

The notebook cover states that the Space Systems Division employs R&D staff with expertise in robot engineering, structural engineering, architectural engineering, civil engineering, and material engineering. In addition to the above applications on their enclosed glossies, the cover also mentions space energy utilization. Their research and development is split into three areas - orbiting systems, lunar bases and ground support facilities. They also mention working with The Ralph M. Parsons Company and J.M. Beggs International, Inc.

Shimizu is an old, very large company, founded in 1804 (one of the old "zaibatsu"), now with 15,710 employees, 74.3 billion Yen in capital, 1.556 trillion yen in sales, and 1.510 trillion yen in orders awarded. (The conversion from yen to dollars was hovering around 110 yen to the dollar as of June 1997 and again in October 1998 after wild fluctuations in between.)

You can visit the Shimizu home page but there was nothing there on their space research and development last time I checked, though their main logo on the WWW is of something in orbit around Earth. I would not expect a private company to reveal their business plan, though they must reveal the results of the R&D which is funded by the government tax dollar. The family who owns Shimizu is philanthropic and has donated a large sum of money to the Space Studies Institute with no strings attached. To the best of my knowledge, Shimizu has not embarked on any concrete mission like SpaceDev has despite Shimizu's much greater resources. It's common for a few people at the top to be limited in their ability to get a large company engaged in a different project. It requires the positive commitment of many, many people up and down both management and technical tracks, who are already engaged in very busy business activity, and who have developed habits of business and thinking alien to a radical new venture such as space development. Short term reactivity vs. long term proactivity.

Nonetheless, I would suggest that any major investor interested in space resources utilization and human space settlement look into Shimizu as a leader in this field. Their contact information is:

Shimizu Corporation
Space Systems Division
1-2-3 Shibaura
Minato-ku, Tokyo 105
Phone: 03-5441-0085
Fax: 03-5441-0346

I was kindly sent the above materials by Kenji Takagi, who works for Dr. Shinji Matsumoto, General Manager of their Space Systems Division. The Director is Seishi Suzuki.

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