Tokyo base space The lunar lander Hakuto-R is on track to land on the moon at the end of April, the company announced Monday.
Ispace launched the lander aboard the Falcon 9 in December. Since then, spacecraft have traveled about 1,376 million kilometers. This is the farthest distance a privately-funded, commercially-operated spacecraft has ever reached in deep space. The company plans to complete all deep-space orbital maneuvers by mid-March, followed by lunar orbit in late March.
Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said at a media briefing on Monday that the flight provided useful operational data for subsequent missions. “We got a lot of data and know-how” about the lander and its subsystems, he said. “They are very viable assets for ispace.”
This includes information on the structural performance of the lander during launch and deployment, as well as the performance of the thermal, communications, and power subsystems.
“It’s almost impossible to fully envision everything before a mission,” Hakamada says. “It is inevitable that we will be faced with events contrary to public order.” including short-term, unexpected problems with communication after Thermal issues have not impacted operations.
The company is planning two more missions, aptly named Mission 2 and Mission 3, scheduled for 2024 and 2025 respectively. Mission 2 is the next technical demonstration of the Hakuto-R lander system and also a test of the ispace “micro rover” that collects data on the lunar surface. The ultimate goal of Ispace is to kick-start a lunar economy, primarily through resource exploration and extraction. Both the lander and the rover will be important sources of intelligence as the company plans future missions.
The company also plans to send Mission 2 commercial payloads to the lunar surface from companies such as Takasago Thermal Engineering Co., Ltd., Euglena Co., Ltd., and the Department of Space Science and Engineering of National Central University in Taiwan.
Ispace has various plans for Mission 3. The mission is being developed in collaboration with aerospace contractors Draper, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies, a division of Karman Space and Defense. Ispace acts as a design agent and subcontractor for that mission. The companies won a $73 million contract from NASA to deliver science payloads to the Moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Ispace also plans to send customers commercial payloads alongside scientific payloads. Companies currently negotiating final payload service agreements are AstronetX, ArkEdge Space, Aviv Labs, and CesiumAstro.