Japanese Researchers to Test Residence Sustainable Under Extreme Environments

2019/09/14 14:15
Sousuke Kudou, technical writer
The Antarctica Mobile Base Unit (source: Misawa Homes)
The unit being transported (source: Misawa Homes)

Four Japanese organizations announced Aug 26, 2019, that they will jointly conduct a verification test in the aim of establishing a housing system sustainable under extreme environments at Showa Station in Antarctica.

The four organizations are Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), National Institute of Polar Research (NiPR), Misawa Homes Co Ltd and Misawa Homes Institute of Research and Development Co Ltd.

For "Space Exploration Innovation Hub," for which JAXA called for proposals from the public in 2017, JAXA selected "The Establishment of New Sustainable Housing System," which was proposed by Misawa Homes and Misawa Homes Institute of Research and Development. The system is based on the development of (1) a "construction method for saving energy required for construction" and (2) "autonomous circulation system for housing energy."

Because technical elements such as "easiness of construction," "renewable energy system" and "monitoring using sensor technologies," which are required for manned bases in space, are also useful in the extreme environment of Antarctica, the verification test was proposed.

For "Antarctica Mobile Base Unit," which will be used in the verification test, two units (size: approximately 6,100 x 2,500 x 3,050mm each, floor area: 11.82m2 each) are connected. A steel frame unit structure and 120mm-thick bonded woody composite panels were combined to add heat insulation properties. As external walls, Galvalume steel plates and and solar panels are used.

The four organizations expect an average annual temperature of -10.4°C, minimum temperature of -45.3°C, maximum instantaneous wind speed of 61.2m/s, etc. The Antarctica Mobile Base Unit is equipped with a sled for carrying a container, sensors for monitoring the safety of residents, etc. They plan to unveil the unit in late October 2019 and, then, transport it to Showa Station for verification test scheduled in February to September 2020.

Specifically, the four organizations will check the effect of optimizing heating energy inside the unit realized by a solar power generation system, heat collection/storage system, etc. As a target value of the unit's heat insulating performance, they aim at 0.20w/m2·K (UA value or average U-value), which is higher than the ZEH (zero energy house) standard in the cold regions of Japan (Hokkaido and part of the Tohoku region) (0.4w/m2·K). They will test the energy-saving performance realized with those heat-insulating technologies.

Moreover, the four organizations will examine (1) the easiness of construction and (2) the effectiveness of construction tools and "construction support sensors" by connecting two units to expand the living space and separating them to narrow the space. Furthermore, by checking the sensors for monitoring the safety of residents (e.g. temperature/humidity and detection of CO2 and fire) in real time, they will test the safety and comfort of the living space.