GIKEN signs technology R&D contract with MLIT for lunar construction project

Bringing concept to reality and taking dreams of the moon to a new stage

12 Sep 2022 NEWS RELEASE

GIKEN LTD. (Head Office: Kochi-shi, Kochi; President: Shinnosuke Moribe; hereafter “GIKEN”) announced the decision to proceed to the technology research and development stage of its collaboration with the Japanese government’s Stardust Program (Strategic Program for Accelerating Research, Development and Utilization of Space Technology). GIKEN will drive technology development and verification as part of the related Project for Promoting the Development of Innovative Technologies for Autonomous Construction, such as on the Moon, led mainly by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). After being selected to participate in the Stardust Program in FY2021, GIKEN has been working on a feasibility study on the use of press-in technologies in space1. This has been positively received, so press-in technology research focused on space development will now move to a new phase of bringing the concept to reality.

SILENT PILERTM press-in and extraction machinery and other equipment vary from other companies’ pile drivers in that they are also able to, in principle, operate in zero-gravity environments because they do not rely on the weight of the machine for stability. This is possible because they grip piles already driven into the ground and use extraction resistance force (reaction force) to drive in the next piles. In April, GIKEN provided MLIT with findings on the effectiveness of press-in technologies, and issues with development, obtained through the previous feasibility study.

Also in the R&D stage, verification tests will be conducted using ground information estimation technologies, and automated operation technologies, assuming construction activities on the lunar surface. This will involve press-in technologies that continue to dispel preconceived notions as a solution to construction issues around the world. In future stages as well, the company will refine its “Jiryu Dokuso” (unique and original) technologies while taking moonshots2 to shape the future of the lunar surface.

1 See previous news release for more information(Link)

2 Ambitious goals that are difficult to achieve, but can have an enormous impact if successful. The expression is believed to have come from a speech in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy when he announced the Apollo mission.

Illustration of construction on the lunar surface using the ImplantTM Method

■Findings from FY2021 verifications (abridged)

Gyropress MethodTM suited to various ground conditions

One of the more effective GIKEN construction methods is the Gyropress MethodTM, a rotary cutting press-in method for steel tubular piles. With uncertainties surrounding ground conditions on the moon, the Gyropress MethodTM, which can penetrate hard ground as well, is able to handle a wide range of ground conditions in a single rig. Because it does not require the pre-boring or soil replacement needed with other construction methods, less equipment needs to be transported and construction time can be reduced.

Small-diameter piles and compact press-in machines reduce transportation volume

Small-diameter tubular piles are expected to be effective. With limitations on the amount of building material and equipment that can be carried into space, these small-diameter tubular piles will help reduce cargo volume. Also, size and weight of cargo can be reduced because press-in machines do not rely on their own weight for stability, while the adoption of small-diameter piles used in the press-in method can further reduce cargo volume.

Small-diameter piles and compact press-in machines reduce transportation volume

Small-diameter tubular piles are expected to be effective. With limitations on the amount of building material and equipment that can be carried into space, these small-diameter tubular piles will help reduce cargo volume. Also, size and weight of cargo can be reduced because press-in machines do not rely on their own weight for stability, while the adoption of small-diameter piles used in the press-in method can further reduce cargo volume.

Ground information estimation and automated operation using the PPT SystemTM

Press-in Piling Total System (PPT SystemTM) of GIKEN is considered to be effective. The PPT SystemTM estimates ground conditions and automatically controls machine operations based on various data collected while pile is being installed. It reduces the number of advance soil surveys such as borehole data takings and achieves construction works with minimal energy usage.

■ Outline of initiatives from FY2022

Under a contract to be completed by FY2025 at the latest, GIKEN will propose and evaluate rational design and build processes for construction on the lunar surface based on accumulated project data of the rotary cutting press-in method.

Normal construction processes from “survey to design to execution”

In general, Earth-based construction projects follow 3 steps, (1) preliminary survey (soil samplings), (2) construction design, (3) work execution. Although such surveys require a lot of specialized equipment and time to study, sampling quantity is expected to be limited compared to Earth-based projects due to limitations on transportation capability to space. Besides, if unexpected ground conditions are encountered during execution, design changes may also be required.

PPT SystemTM streamlines operations with three processes running simultaneously

Using the PPT SystemTM, if survey data is limited, the necessary ground information can be supplemented with estimation from on-going piling data, and such information can also be utilized for design review. Additionally, even in situations like the lunar surface where survey data is extremely sparse, this system allows above 3 processes carry out at the same time, so it should be possible to ensure structural performance. This will help reduce quantity of equipment to be transported as well as time to be spend for construction work.

Specific initiatives

In addition to a verification test to install small-diameter piles with the Gyropress MethodTM and PPT SystemTM, at a test field that approximates the lunar surface ground conditions, it is planned to develop a technology to estimate bearing capacity of piles on the Moon. Consequently, findings will be presented on the feasibility of technologies that use actual piling data to streamline all the 3 construction processes with consideration of structure to be built and construction methodology on the lunar surface.

■ Future outlook

With very little currently known about ground conditions on the lunar surface, apart from the surface layer, ground information obtained by press-in technologies, can be used as the fundamental information when constructing a range of buildings in the future. Streamlining of design and execution processes in anticipation of construction activities in space may also lead to major improvements in Earth-based construction technologies. This project therefore has the potential to drive major innovations in the way construction is carried out.

Source: "Project for Promoting the Development of Innovative Technologies for Autonomous Construction" MLIT website


■Profile of GIKEN Group
GIKEN developed the SILENT PILERTM, the world’s first reaction-based hydraulic pile jacking machine, installing piles with no noise and vibration. GIKEN Group now actively promotes the Press-in Technology worldwide and contributes to the construction industry by proposing and implementing innovative solutions. The innovative technology of press-in provides a unique solution and the adoption of this technology has grown to more than 40 nations and regions.


Contact Information:
GIKEN LTD.
Management Strategy Department
TEL: +81-3-3528-1633 (weekdays: 8:30 to 17:30)Tokyo Head Office: 16F Ariake Central Tower, 3-7-18 Ariake, Koto-ku, 135-0063, Japan