In preparation for a new lunar economy, ispace plans to land on the moon in late April
Tokyo-based Ispace said on Monday that its Hakuto-R lunar lander was on track to reach the moon in late April.
Ispace launched the lander aboard a Falcon 9 in December; since then, the spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.376 million miles, the farthest a commercial, privately funded spacecraft has ever traveled into deep space. The company plans to complete all deep-space orbital maneuvers by mid-March, followed by a lunar orbit insertion in late March.
Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada told a news conference on Monday that the flight provided operational data that will inform subsequent missions. “We acquired tons of data and know-how” on the lander and its subsystems, he said. “These are very viable assets for ispace.”
This includes information on the structural performance of the lander during launch and deployment, as well as the performance of the thermal, communication and power subsystems.
“It’s almost impossible to assume everything perfectly before the mission,” Hakamada said. “It is inevitable to face unnominal events.” Some non-nominal mission events so far include higher than company-predicted thermal temperatures and unexpected brief communication glitches after the lander was deployed from the Falcon 9. The thermal issues have not affected operations.
The company has two more missions planned, aptly named Mission 2 and Mission 3, scheduled for 2024 and 2025, respectively. Mission 2 will be the next technical demonstration of the Hakuto-R lander system, as well as a test of an ispace “micro rover” that will collect data from the lunar surface. Ispace’s end goal is to revive the lunar economy, largely through exploration and resource extraction; the lander and rover will be important sources of information gathering as the company plans future missions.
The company will also send commercial payloads to the lunar surface for Mission 2, from companies including Takasago Thermal Engineering Co., Euglena Co., and the Department of Space Science and Engineering at National Central Taiwan University. .
Ispace has different plans for Mission 3. This mission is being developed alongside aerospace contractor Draper, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies, a division of Karman Space and Defense. Ispace is serving as design agent and contractor for this assignment. The companies won a $73 million contract from NASA under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to deliver science payloads to the Moon. Ispace also plans to send commercial payload customers alongside the science payloads. Companies currently negotiating final payload service agreements include AstronetX, ArkEdge Space, Aviv Labs, and CesiumAstro.
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