Lunar Exploration Startup, ispace, Partners with SpaceX for 2020 & 2021 Moon Missions

TOKYO – September 26, 2018 – ispace, a company developing robotics for lunar delivery and resource exploration, announced today that SpaceX will be the launch provider for its maiden voyages to the Moon scheduled for 2020 and 2021. The company’s first two lunar missions will be carried out under the program name HAKUTO-R, standing for “Reboot”, a reference to ispace’s management of HAKUTO, a Google Lunar XPRIZE competition finalist.

ispace contracted with SpaceX to carry its spacecraft—its Lunar Lander and Lunar Rovers—as secondary payloads on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Launches for the first and second missions for the HAKUTO-R program will occur in mid-2020 and mid-2021, respectively. ispace is the first lunar exploration company to purchase multiple launches.

Takeshi Hakamada, ispace Founder & CEO: “We share the vision with SpaceX of enabling humans to live in space, so we’re very glad they will join us in this first step of our journey.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President & COO: “We are entering a new era in space exploration and SpaceX is proud to have been selected by ispace to launch their first lunar missions. We are looking forward to delivering their innovative spacecraft to the Moon.”

The decision to bring back the “HAKUTO” name—meaning “white rabbit” in Japanese, based on local folklore about a rabbit on the Moon—comes 6 months after the  Google Lunar XPRIZE ended. The HAKUTO-R program will be a technology demonstration for ispace. Success criteria for Mission 1 has been defined as an orbit around the Moon, while Mission 2 will perform a soft lunar landing and deployment of rovers to collect data from the lunar surface.

ispace released the latest designs of its spacecraft following the successful completion of a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), in which a panel of 26 external experts from Japan, Europe, and the US—including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)—reviewed both technical and programmatic status of HAKUTO-R. Key feedback from the PDR Board Report concluded that the PDR of the lunar orbit mission is “successful pending closure of key actions” and all aspects of the design were found to be feasible.

PDR Reviewer Feedback

Yasufumi Wakabayashi, a 40-year career veteran and retired supervisor for spaceflight technology at JAXA: “ispace is working on space development with a solid environment, gathering a considerable level of talent.”

Martin Riehle, Orbital Propulsion Expert & Technical Authority, Ariane Group: “When looking on schedule, price and effort, the approach that ispace is following is much more lean and efficient [than ESA or NASA]. So far, I absolutely can underline that you’re on track for success.”

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