A long exposure photo shows the path of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during the launch of the ispace mission on Dec. 11, 2022, also showing the rocket booster’s reentry and landing.
Japanese lunar exploration company ispace began its much-anticipated first mission on Sunday, with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching the company’s lunar lander from Florida.
“This is the very beginning of a new era,” ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada told TBEN.
The Tokyo-based company’s Mission 1 is currently on its way to the moon, with an expected landing by the end of April.
Founded over a decade ago, Ispace originated as a team competing for the Google Lunar Xprize under the name of Hakuto – after a mythological Japanese white rabbit. After the Xprize contest was canceled, ispace flipped 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 on this first mission, employing more than 200 people around the world – including about 50 at its American subsidiary in Denver. In addition, ispace has been steadily raising money from a wide variety of investors, raising $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 rovers and payloads for a number of government agencies and companies, including from the US, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
The ispace Mission 1 spacecraft will be deployed from the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on December 11, 2022.
Prior to launch, ispace outlined 10 mission milestones — with the company having completed the first three to date: pre-launch preparation, post-launch deployment, and then establishing a communications link. Next is to maneuver into orbit and then fly through space for a period of a month before entering the moon’s orbit. The milestones demonstrate the complexity and difficulty of ispace’s mission, with Hakamada both emphasizing his confidence in the mission and noting that each milestone represents another step forward for the company’s goals.
“I have 100% confidence in our engineering team, they did the right things to make our successful landing on the lunar surface,” said Hakamada.
If successful, ispace would be the first private company to land on the moon – a feat previously accomplished by global superpowers.
The lunar lander for the company’s Mission 1.