ispace wants to stake its claim to the moon with a November launch • TechCrunch

Tokyo startup ispace’s lunar ambitions will soon be put to the test as the company prepares for its first launch later this month.

The startup will attempt to send the Hakuto-R lander to the lunar surface, launching an ambitious lunar exploration program of the same name. Founded in 2010, ispace is one of many new companies looking to develop new markets on and around the moon; on its website, it describes its goal as “a gateway for private sector companies to take their businesses to the moon.”

Being a middle- and last-mile delivery partner to the Moon could prove lucrative, given the growing interest in lunar exploration from both government space agencies and private companies. But it’s not just long-term revenue that’s at stake in this first launch; a recent report suggested that ispace is preparing to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange as early as this fiscal year.

While the company previously planned for a November 9-15 launch, ispace said Monday that it is now aiming for a November 22 launch at the latest. The new date was chosen “in careful coordination” with launch partner SpaceX, the startup said in a statement. Ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada confirmed that the lander had arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a cargo plane before launch.

the ispace lander is loaded into a cargo plane. Image Credits: ispace

“This mission will be the first historic one not only for our company, but also for the development of the northern economy,” Hakamada said.

If all goes according to plan, Hakuto-R will carry several payloads to the lunar surface. These include a 22-pound rover for the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, a lunar robot for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and some more payloads from commercial and government customers. After launch, the mission will be controlled from the company’s flight control center in Tokyo.

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