Hakuto-R, the iSpace lunar lander, is on track to reach the moon by the end of April. Launched on board a Falcon 9 in December 2022, the spacecraft has traveled the farthest of any privately funded commercial spacecraft that has ever journeyed into deep space – around 1,376 million kilometers.
The Tokyo-based company wants to complete all deep space orbital maneuvers by mid-March and insert into lunar orbit in late March. Takeshi Hakamada, iSpace CEO, said the flight has provided operational data that will inform subsequent missions.
It includes information on the lander’s structural performance during launch and deployment, as well as the performance of thermal, communication, and power subsystems.
Hakamada believes it’s almost impossible to assume everything perfectly before the mission. “It is inevitable to face off-nominal events. Some off-nominal events in the mission so far include thermal temperatures hotter than the company anticipated and brief, unexpected issues with communications after the lander deployed from the Falcon 9. The thermal issues have not affected operations.”
iSpace Missions in the pipeline
Furthermore, iSpace has two more missions in the pipeline – Mission 2 and Mission 3, scheduled for 2024 and 2025, respectively. Hakamada said Mission 2 will be the next technical demonstration of the Hakuto-R lander system. This will also be a test of an iSpace micro rover that will collect data on the lunar surface.
The company aims to kickstart the lunar economy through resource exploration and extraction. iSpace’s lander and rover will be important information-gathering sources as the company plans future missions. It will also send commercial payloads to the lunar surface for Mission 2, from companies including Takasago Thermal Engineering Co., Euglena Co., and the Department of Space Science and Engineering at Taiwan’s National Central University.
iSpace is developing Mission 3 with aerospace contractor Draper, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies.