SpaceX launches the primary mission of Japan’s Ispace lunar lander

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


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

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

The Tokyo-based company’s Mission 1 is currently en route to the moon, with landing expected towards the end of April.

Founded more than a decade ago, ispace originated as a team competing for the Google Lunar Xprize under the name Hakuto – after a mythological Japanese white rabbit. After the Xprize competition was canceled, ispace rotated 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 while working towards this first mission, with over 200 employees around the world – including about 50 at its US subsidiary in Denver. In addition, ispace has consistently raised funds from a variety of investors, raising $237 million to date through a mix of equity and debt. ispace’s investors include Development Bank of Japan, Suzuki Motor, Japan Airlines and Airbus Ventures.

The ispace Mission 1 lander carries small rovers and payloads for a range of government agencies and companies – including those from the US, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

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


Prior to launch, ispace outlined 10 milestones for the mission — with the company having completed the first three so far: preparing for launch, post-launch deployment, and then establishing a communications link. Next you have to maneuver in orbit and then fly through space for 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 toward the company’s goals.

“I have 100 percent faith in our engineering team, they did the right things to achieve our successful landing on the lunar surface,” Hakamada said.

If successful, ispace would become 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.


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