Japanese company ispace postpones second private moon mission to 2024
A Japanese company targeting the moon has pushed back its second lunar mission by a year to 2024.
Tokyo-based ispace is planning a series of robotic lunar missions with the first, called M1, set to visit Earth’s celestial companion later this year.
In an update Monday (January 25), however, ispace said the second lunar mission (also known as M2) will be delayed to “reflect internal and external conditions.” The company didn’t elaborate on what those terms are, as it also shared progress on a lunar micro-rover that is set to fly to the moon on M2.
“The coming year is the most important yet for us,” CEO and Founder Takeshi Hakamada said in the statement. “Every member of our team has contributed to our progress, and I continue to be grateful to our employees every day. There is still a lot of work to do, so we need to stay focused and steady as we progress towards our first mission. .”
ispace said the M1 mission lander, called Series 1, is almost fully assembled and integrated, on track for a launch in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Lunar timeline: Human exploration of the moon
Upcoming activities for the M1 mission include “mating the main upper and lower assemblies, installing components such as radiators, multi-layer insulation, solar panels, landing gear and the deployment mechanism of the rover, as well as customer payloads”. indicated space.
This will be followed by final testing and shipment to the United States for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. In this flight, the Series 1 lander will bring the UAE’s Rashid lunar rover to the surface of the moon. , as well as other client payloads.
In the lead up to M2, ispace is working on a unique micro-rover that will test its ultimate goal of sending fleets of these little machines to the lunar surface. The company has provided few design details so far, but noted that the goal is to achieve a “small size, low mass rover”. M2 should also fly on a Falcon 9.
ispace is also developing a larger, more complex robotic lander that will be able to carry 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of payload to the lunar surface. This “Series 2” lander is supposed to debut on the company’s third mission, called M3. ispace did not say whether the M3 mission will be delayed due to the M2 delay.
The lander, under development with U.S. technology firms General Atomics and Draper, passed its preliminary design review in June 2021, ispace representatives said last year. The design features “a modular payload design with multiple payload bays, allowing flexibility and optimization for a wider range of government, commercial and scientific customers,” ispace representatives said in an August statement. 2021.
“Notably, the lander aims to be one of the first commercial lunar landers capable of surviving the lunar night, and is designed to have the ability to land on either the near side or the far side of the moon, including regions polar,” they added. .
NASA and an international contingent of space agencies and companies are also targeting the moon’s polar regions for the Artemis program, which plans to send people to the moon in 2025. Permanently shaded by the sun, the poles would be rich in water ice. Lunar water is the keystone of human missions, allowing a measurement of resource use in situ rather than transporting Earth’s precious stuff.
iSpace’s Series 2 also targets NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which is a series of science and technology hardware planned for lunar missions to support Artemis.