World’s first commercial lunar exploration to begin in 2022
August 6, 2021 - Japanese startup ispace is assembling three crowdfunded moon landers, the first of which, HAKUTO-R, is due to be launched by SpaceX in 2022.
A technology startup called ispace (all lower case) has raised a further $46 million in a fresh round of crowdfunding, as it sets its sights on three lunar lander missions in as many years – achieving what it says will be the world’s first commercial lunar exploration programme.
To date the relatively small Japanese company has raised $195.5 million dollars through crowdfunding, plus a $500,000 payment from Google’s Lunar XPRIZE contest in 2018, for designing a prototype HAKUTO lunar rover (Hakuto means “white rabbit” in Japanese – inspired by the legend of a white rabbit living on the moon).
ispace’s ambitions lie in commercial landers aimed at carrying rovers and science experiments to the lunar surface. It is also looking to monetise data it gathers from the moon, which it hopes to sell on to other companies, such as space agencies and research organisations, to aid preparations for their own missions to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbour.
The first HAKUTO-R lander (the “R” stands for Reboot) is under construction in Germany, ahead of a launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral at the latter end of 2022. It will carry a rover for the United Arab Emirates, a Japanese lunar robot, and three static onboard experiments from Canada.
In 2023, a second HAKUTO-R lander will deliver an ispace rover intended to collect data to support subsequent missions.
2024 will see ispace send a new, larger lander design to the lunar surface – currently being developed in the United States.