SpaceX launches first Japanese ispace lunar landing mission

SpaceX launches first Japanese ispace lunar landing mission

A long exposure photo shows the path of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as it launched the ispace mission on December 11, 2022, with the return and landing of the booster rocket also visible.


Japanese lunar exploration company ispace began its long-awaited first mission on Sunday, with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching the company’s lunar lander from Florida.

“This is the beginning of a new era,” ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada told CNBC.

The Tokyo-based company’s Mission 1 is currently on its way to the Moon, with a landing scheduled for late April.

Founded over a decade ago, ispace originated as a competing team the Google Lunar Xprize under the name of Hakuto, after a Japanese mythological white rabbit. After the cancellation of the Xprize competition, ispace pivoted and expanded its goals, with Hakamada aiming to create “an economically viable ecosystem” around the Moon, he said in a recent interview.

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The company has grown steadily as it worked toward that early mission, with more than 200 employees worldwide, including about 50 at its US subsidiary in Denver. In addition, ispace has consistently raised funds from a wide variety of investors, bringing in $237 million through a mix of equity and debt to date. ispace’s investors include the Development Bank of Japan, Suzuki Motor, Japan Airlines and Airbus Ventures.

The ispace Mission 1 lander carries small mobile vehicles and payloads for various government agencies and companies, including the US, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

The ispace Mission 1 spacecraft is deployed from the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on December 11, 2022.


Before launch, ispace outlined 10 milestones for the mission, as the company has completed the first three so far: launch preparation, post-launch deployment, and then establishing a communication link. Next is maneuvering in orbit, and then a period of one month flying in space before entering the orbit of the moon. The milestones demonstrate the complexity and difficulty of ispace’s mission, with Hakamada emphasizing both his confidence in the mission and noting that each milestone represents another step toward the company’s goals.

“I have 100% confidence in our engineering team, they have been doing the right things to achieve our successful landing on the lunar surface,” Hakamada said.

If successful, ispace would be the first private company to land on the moon, a feat previously accomplished by global superpowers.

The lunar landing for the company’s mission 1.


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