SpaceX Will Send Robots to the Moon for Ispace in 2020

SpaceX is going to send a series of robots to the moon. Tokyo-based robotics company ispace announced on Wednesday that it’s partnering with Elon Musk’s firm to send its lunar spacecraft to the moon for the first time with missions scheduled for 2020 and 2021.

“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,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to delivering their innovative spacecraft to the Moon.”

The project will see the Lunar Lander orbit the moon in a mid-2020 mission. The second mission will see the Lunar Rovers land on the moon and collect data from the surface in a mid-2021 mission. The aim of these two missions is to demonstrate ispace’s technical capabilities, showing potential clients how the team can send their payloads to the moon, with ispace already raising $90 million in funding. The company has completed a preliminary design review of the spacecraft, where 26 experts declared all aspects of the design were feasible.

Ispace's lunar rovers.
Ispace's lunar rovers.

Ispace is the firm behind “Hakuto,” one of the five final teams in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition aimed at landing a robotic spacecraft on the mon before the end of 2017. The team name means “white rabbit” in Japanese, a reference to a tale about a rabbit in the dark areas of the moon. The competition ended in January of this year with nobody claiming the $30 million top prize, but ispace has referenced the project’s Google origins by naming it “Hakuto-R,” with the “R” short for “reboot.”

The announcement comes just one week after SpaceX detailed plans to send a passenger in orbit around the moon. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will embark on a four-to-five-day mission with six to eight selected artists as early as 2023. But where Maezawa’s voyage will use the under-development BFR, ispace is employing the Falcon 9 to launch its craft.

“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 founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Media via Ispace