ispace, a company developing robotics for lunar delivery and resource exploration, has announced that SpaceX will be the launch provider for the firm's maiden voyages to the Moon that are scheduled for the 2020 and 2021 timeframe.
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 — their 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.
The decision to bring back the “HAKUTO” name — meaning “white rabbit” in Japanese, based on local folklore about a rabbit on the Moon — comes six 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.
Takeshi Hakamada, ispace Founder and CEO, said that the firm shares the vision with SpaceX of enabling humans to live in space, and are very glad they will join the company in this first step of this journey.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO, added that the company is entering a new era in space exploration and SpaceX is proud to have been selected by ispace to launch their first lunar missions and are looking forward to delivering ispace's innovative spacecraft to the Moon.