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To infinity and beyond! NGK SPARK PLUG & HAKUTO-R aim to test solid-state battery on the moon

NGK SPARK PLUG, the world’s leading ignition and sensor specialist, is a company with its eyes set firmly on the future. By leveraging its expertise in ceramics to contribute to visionary ideas and enterprises such as commercial lunar exploration, the company is placing itself at the forefront of the mobility of tomorrow.

One exciting development has been its research into solid-state battery technology, widely considered to be the next generation in energy storage. The company’s technical know-how in this area provided the gateway for it to become a corporate partner of HAKUTO-R, a multinational commercial lunar exploration programme operated by ispace. This expertise, ultimately, created the opportunity to send a trial design of its solid-state battery technology into space. Aboard the ‘Mission 1’ lunar lander, the technology will be transported to the Moon where it will undergo rigorous testing.

Speaking about NGK SPARK PLUG’s role in this venture, Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace says: “Stable power supply will be the most critical component to enable industry to take to the Moon. Ultimately, this means NGK SPARK PLUG’s contributions will facilitate the expansion of human presence into outer space.”

The ‘Mission 1’ lander is planned to be launched into space on SpaceX’s ‘Falcon 9’ rocket in 2022; the original 2021 launch having been postponed in recent months. Assembly of the lunar lander will begin in Japan in 2021 before being moved to Europe. Final assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) activities for the lander will be carried out by ArianeGroup GmbH at its facilities in Lampoldhausen, Germany, before being delivered to Cape Canaveral in the USA for its launch.

Still an emerging technology and not yet on the market for practical use, several types of solid-state battery are under development. With over 80 years’ experience in manufacturing premium ceramics, NGK SPARK PLUG has been pursuing research and development on ‘oxide-based ceramic electrolyte’ battery technology, with a focus on providing a wider operating temperature range and higher safety than other types. The choice of oxide eliminates the risk of combustion or hazardous gas leakage. The company, moreover, has developed a unique capability of non-sintering the oxide-based electrolytes, instead of the more common practice of sintering. This means that it will eventually be able to make the batteries larger for multiple applications.

In space and lunar exploration, the current power supply solution is to attach an electrical generator to electrolyte batteries. This keeps the battery from freezing by generating heat from sources such as radioactive isotope, which can be hazardous. On the Moon, the solid-state battery will be tested in temperatures as low as -150°C, which can occur during the lunar night and in the permanently shadowed regions at the Moon’s poles. Withstanding these conditions will mean that the burgeoning lunar industry will have found a stable energy storage solution.

Commenting on this fascinating opportunity, Damien Germès, President & CEO of NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE GmbH, Regional President EMEA and Corporate Officer of the Global Headquarters in Japan, says: “We are very excited about the potential of our solid-state battery technology as well as being a Corporate Partner and payload provider for HAKUTO-R. The testing of our technology in extreme lunar conditions is ideal to further improve the performance of our solid-state batteries. It has always been in our company’s DNA to explore new possibilities and test its products in the most extreme conditions for multiple future endeavours.”




Worldwide: NGK SPARK PLUG is one of the leading automotive and technical ceramics suppliers, with its corporate headquarters in Nagoya, Japan and sales organisations and production facilities all over the world. The automotive side of the company specialises in the fields of ignition and sensor technology, supplying Original Equipment customers across the globe. For the Aftermarket, its product portfolio comprises spark plugs, glow plugs, ignition coils and leads under the NGK Ignition Parts brand. Under the brand NTK Vehicle Electronics the company offers oxygen sensors (including NOx sensors), exhaust gas temperature sensors (EGTS), mass air flow (MAF) and manifold absolute/boost pressure (MAP) sensors as well as engine speed and position sensors. With around 16,400 employees, the company’s automotive and technical ceramics activities generate a total annual turnover of around 3.7 billion Euros worldwide. NGK SPARK PLUG’s EMEA sales represent 27% of this global turnover. NGK SPARK PLUG operates on all continents and has 43 group companies, 33 production plants and five Technical Centres.

Aftermarket EMEA: NGK SPARK PLUG has seen significant growth across the Aftermarket since expanding beyond motorcycle parts into the automotive sector in the 1970s. With an outstanding commitment to quality, technology and research & development the company has become the world’s number one in spark plugs and oxygen sensors, and a leading provider of glow plugs, ignition coils and leads as well as further sensor technology. Organisationally NGK SPARK PLUG’s regional headquarters in Ratingen, Germany serves the Aftermarket across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the EMEA region the company has six regional companies and more than 1,000 employees, as well as two production plants in France and South Africa and a Technical Centre in Germany.

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About ispace, Inc.:
ispace is a lunar exploration company with over 100 staff and offices in Japan, Europe and the United States. Founded in 2010, ispace managed Team HAKUTO, one of the 5 finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The company has raised a cumulative total investment of approximately $125 million (USD) in investment. The funding is being used to build a small commercial lunar lander, which aims to provide a high-frequency, low-cost delivery service to the Moon. Aspiring to be a gateway for the private sector to bring their business to the Moon, ispace has also launched a lunar data business concept to support companies with lunar market entry. ispace is part of a team led by Draper, which was selected by NASA to compete in its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Program, and ispace Europe was selected by ESA to be part of the Science Team for PROSPECT, a program which seeks to extract water on the Moon.

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HAKUTO-R is a multinational commercial lunar exploration program operated by ispace. It includes ispace’s first two lunar missions: Mission 1, a soft lunar landing planned to launch in 2022, and Mission 2, a lunar landing and deployment of a rover planned to launch in 2023. For both missions, the HAKUTO-R lander is planned to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The program aspires to lay the groundwork for high-frequency lunar transportation. Partners of HAKUTO-R include Japan Airlines, Suzuki Motors, Citizen Watch, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, NGK SPARK PLUG, Takasago Thermal Engineering, and Sumitomo Corporation.

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About ArianeGroup:
ArianeGroup develops and supplies innovative and competitive solutions for civil and military space launchers, with expertise in all aspects of state-of-the-art propulsion technologies. ArianeGroup is lead contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launcher families, responsible for both design and the entire production chain, up to and including marketing by its Arianespace subsidiary, as well as for the missiles of the French oceanic deterrent force. ArianeGroup and its subsidiaries enjoy a global reputation as specialists in the field of equipment and propulsion for space applications, while their expertise also benefits other industrial sectors. The group is a joint venture equally owned by Airbus and Safran and employs approximately 9,000 highly qualified staff in France and Germany. Its 2019 revenues amounted to 3.1 billion Euros.

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