On their quest to study the surface of the moon in search for huge deposits of water ice, a Japan-based startup, Ispace, joins forces with SpaceX, whose rockets will take their two missions to the Earth’s satellite. At the moment, they are expected to fly towards the moon in 2020 and 2021.
A failure of Google’s Lunar Xprize
Initiated more than 10 years ago by Google, Lunar Xprize attracted many companies, amongst which was Ispace, a founder of the “Hakuto” team. The main goal of this competition was to land a rover on the lunar surface, and even though many teams entered the challenge, none of them was able to develop a robot on time. Therefore, after postponing the deadline numerous times, Goggle decided against doing it again in March 2018, ending the competition, whose cash prizes were set at $25 million.
Ispace did not give up
Ispace, which ended up in the top five of all projects, did not give up, and is planning to launch two lunar missions in the near future. First, in 2020, Ispace will send an orbital module into the space, and the following year, its pair of rovers will land on the moon’s surface. The main goal of these two robots, however, will be to demonstrate the technology rather than a real search for the ice on the moon.
Falcon 9 is likely to launch the Ispace’s missions
Even though SpaceX were strongly promoting the Falcon Heavy as the best way to get to the moon and farther, it looks like these two missions will enter the space with help from Falcon 9 Full Thrust. This vehicle can launch mostly medium objects for now, but SpaceX is currently working on improving its BFR, so that it could be used in all missions in the future.