Image: ispace
An artistic rendering of ispace’s lunar lander and rover designs.

Japanese firm Ispace, which specializes in robotics and intends to become one of the first lunar delivery companies, has announced its first two missions to the moon. The first trip (scheduled for 2020) will carry a payload into orbit, while the second (in 2021) will take ispace’s rovers to the lunar surface.

The Tokyo-based startup ispace has contracted to launch its lunar lander and mini-rovers as secondary payloads atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

“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.”

– Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Under the agreement, ispace will fly two HAKUTO-R missions, an orbiter and a lander, as secondary payloads on SpaceX Falcon 9 launches.

The first HAKUTO-R mission will place a spacecraft with a total mass, fully fueled, of 550 kilograms into orbit around the moon.

The second mission will be a lander, weighing 1,400 kilograms, including a small rover. Both are intended to demonstrate ispace’s capabilities in delivering payloads to the moon for future commercial customers.

“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,”

– Takeshi Hakamada, ispace’s founder and CEO, said in a statement

The Japanese company has had its sights set on the Moon for years now. The company originally oversaw a finalist team in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition, a contest to send the first private spacecraft to the Moon. For the competition, the team developed a lunar rover called HAKUTO, which means “white rabbit.”

 

 

Like SpaceX, ispace and other organizations are looking to develop both the Moon and an economy around it, to make the Moon into a launchpad and refueling station for trips venturing farther and deeper in space.