Japanese space company Ispace aims to send landers to the moon – TechCrunch

Ispace, based in Tokyo, has been selected to deliver rovers from Canada and Japan to the lunar surface after their launch aboard SpaceX rockets. The company will use its recently revealed Hakuto-R lander for both missions, currently scheduled for 2022 and 2023.

The Canadian Space Agency selected three private Canadian companies, each with distinct science missions, to pilot the lander. Mission Control Space Services, Canadensys and NGC are the first companies to receive awards under the CSA’s capability demonstration program, which is part of the agency’s lunar exploration acceleration program. LEAP, unveiled by the Canadian government in February 2020, is allocating $ 150 million over five years to support space demonstrations and scientific missions by Canadian private industry.

As part of the mission, the ispace lander will deliver the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) 22-pound rover, “Rashid”. The rover will be equipped with an artificial intelligence flight computer from the space robotics company Mission Control Space Services. Mission Control’s AI will use deep learning algorithms to recognize lunar geology as the Rashid rover crosses the surface.

ispace will carry cameras “to capture key mission events” for Canadensys. The Japanese company will also collect lunar imagery data for the demonstration of NGC’s autonomous navigation system.

“We are honored that the three CSA-awarded companies have each contracted out ispace’s services to carry out their operations on the lunar surface,” ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada said in a statement. “We see this as a demonstration of the trust that ispace has developed with CSA over the past few years, as well as a recognition of ispace’s positive position in the North American market.

ispace will also carry a transformable lunar robot payload to the moon for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in addition to conducting operations and providing lunar data. The data collected on this mission, Mission 2, will be used to help design a future crewed pressurized rover.

JAXA’s lunar robot will only be around 80mm in diameter before transforming into its surface shape and will weigh only around 250 grams. This mission is scheduled for 2023. ispace did not disclose the financial terms of the transactions.

As the robot moves on the lunar surface, images of the behavior of the regolith and images of the lunar surface taken by the robot and the camera on the lunar lander will be sent to the mission control center via the lander. lunar, “JAXA said in a press release. “The data acquired will be used to evaluate the localization algorithm and the impact of the regolith on the driving performance of the pressurized rover in crew.”

ispace unveiled the design of its Hakuto-R lander in July 2020. The Hakuto project was born out of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, in which teams competed to be the first to send a lunar rover to the moon, to take it on the road. 500 meters and send it back. to photos and videos of the Earth. None of the five finalists, including Hakuto, were able to complete a launch, and the contest subsequently ended in 2018 without a winner.

The MBRSC and JAXA rovers will have different deployment mechanisms than the landers, although Hakamada did not provide more details during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The landers are being assembled in Germany and the assembly phase has just started, Hakamada said. “We are therefore convinced that we will respect this timetable,” he added.

Using water on the lunar surface is one of ispace’s long-term goals. The company hopes to have more capacity in the future to support resource use activities, Hakamada said.

This is just one of the many lunar missions launched on SpaceX rockets. NASA announced in April that the space startup had been selected to send humans to the lunar surface as part of its Artemis project, for a total value of $ 2.89 billion. SpaceX will also take payloads from Firefly Aerosapce to take its lunar lander in 2023.

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