Tokyo-based startup ispace’s lunar ambitions will soon be put to the test as the company gears up for its first launch late this month.
The startup will attempt to send its “Hakuto-R” lander to the lunar surface and kick-start an ambitious lunar exploration program of the same name. Founded in 2010, ispace is one of many emerging companies looking to boost new markets on and around the moon; on its website, it describes its goal as “to become a gateway for private sector companies to take their business to the moon.”
Being the moon’s middle and last mile delivery partner could prove lucrative given the increasing interest of both government space agencies and private companies in lunar exploration. But there’s more at stake than distant revenue with this first launch; recent report presented die ispace is preparing to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange all this fiscal year.
While the company previously targeted a launch window of November 9-15, ispace said on Monday that it now plans to launch no earlier than November 22. The new date was chosen “in careful coordination” with launch partner SpaceX, the startup said in a statement. Ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada confirmed that the lander had arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a cargo plane prior to launch.
“This mission will be a historic first not only for our company, but also for the development of the cislunar economy,” Hakamada said.
If all goes according to plan, the Hakuto-R will carry multiple payloads to the moon’s surface. These include a 22-pound rover for the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in the United Arab Emirates, a lunar robot for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and a number of other payloads from commercial and government customers. After launch, the mission will be monitored from the company’s mission control center in Tokyo.