TOMY (President and Representative Director Kazuhiro Kojima) announced that it will start selling two types of an ultra‐compact deformable lunar robot: "SORA‐Q," nicknamed the "SORA‐Q Flagship Model," which was jointly developed with JAXA, the Sony Group, and Doshisha University, and "SORA‐Q: Space Brothers Edition," a collaboration with Space Brothers, on September 2, 2022. Through this product, the company hopes to convey to children around the world their dreams and fascination with space and make them feel closer to space.
Suggested retail prices are 27,500 yen and 33,000 yen, respectively (both including tax). The company's official online shop (takaratomymall.jp) started accepting orders on April 13, 2023.
TOMY and JAXA began joint development of the chassis for this product in 2016 through JAXA's Space Exploration Innovation Hub joint research proposal solicitation, and Sony and Doshisha University joined in 2019 and 2021, respectively, to continue joint development.
Utilizing miniaturization and deformation technology, TOMY has cultivated toy development. With Doshisha University's housing miniaturization technology, Sony's compact power‐saving control board and sensor technology, and JAXA's knowledge, the ultra‐compact and lightweight robot can operate in the lunar environment. The robot is approximately 80 mm in diameter (in its spherical form before deformation) and weighs approximately 175 g. Its outer shell is made of aluminum alloy, and it is powered by a single lithium‐ion battery.
A deformable lunar robot of the same type as the product was used for JAXA's lunar mission "LAMPE" and launched by a SpaceX rocket in December 2022. Unfortunately, it was reported on April 26 that the lander (lunar module) with the robot onboard failed to land on the Moon. The original plan was to release the satellite in a spherical shape after landing on the Moon, deploy it, and travel on the surface of the Moon to acquire data.
In addition, this model is planned to be installed on the Small Lunar Module Demonstrator (SLIM), which is scheduled for launch in August 2023 or later. It is planned to be released just before landing on the Moon, move around, take images of the landing using two cameras at the front and the rear, and transmit data to the Earth via the LEV‐1 parent vehicle. The product to be released is the same size as the exploration robot that will go to the Moon, and it reproduces the same deformation and movements (butterfly, crawling, etc.).
If you use a (free) smartphone app, you can control the same forward, backward, left, and right movements and deformations as the same robot that moves on the Moon. Users can enjoy taking photos through the camera on the device and augmented reality (AR) missions that simulate lunar exploration. Missions in the app and captured images are accumulated as "exploration records." The products will be sold through the official online store as well as at toy specialty stores, department stores, and mass merchandisers nationwide. The flagship model has a yellow coloring at its center. The Space Brothers Edition is blue with a different logo and is limited to 300 production units.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. (https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.