ispace Begins Final Assembly of Lunar Lander Flight Model Ahead of First Mission

Private Japanese company ispace announced that it began the assembly of the flight model for its lunar lander, which is to be used in the company’s first mission scheduled to launch in 2022. This is a major engineering milestone in the development of the lander and part of the final stretch toward our first mission.

Prior to this announcement, the most recent major status update about the lander’s development came in late July 2020, when ispace revealed the final design of its lander around the timing of its critical design review (CDR). Since that time, ispace engineers have completed key environmental testing in Japan using test models of the lunar lander, most recently its structural thermal model (STM). The assembly of the STM was performed in April of this year at a Japan Airlines facility near Narita International Airport before undergoing vibration, acoustics, and thermal vacuum tests at a facility near Tokyo. The lander passed all environmental tests with no significant problems or delay.

From this point forward, the final assembly of the flight model lander will be carried out in cooperation with Ariane Group GmbH at an Ariane Group facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. Engineers from ispace have been working at the facility alongside Ariane Group personnel since early June 2021 and the first major structural assembly is slated for completion by the end of July 2021. Assembly and integration of payloads are scheduled to be completed by year end, with final testing of the flight model scheduled for the start of the next year. Following final testing, the lander flight model will be shipped from Germany to the United States for launch in the second half of 2022.

HAKUTO-R Program Updates

This first mission by ispace is part of the company’s commercial lunar exploration program known as HAKUTO-R, which consists of ispace’s first two lunar missions. Today, ispace also shared updates about two of HAKUTO-R’s Corporate Partners:

  • NGK Spark Plug, which is aiming to conduct the first test of solid-state battery technology on the Moon, successfully completed environmental testing of an engineering model of its battery payload.

  • Citizen Watch, which is supplying processed titanium material to be used in the lander’s legs, unveiled two limited edition watches designed in collaboration with the HAKUTO-R program.

Strong Progress in 2020-2021

Despite setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—such as delays in the supply chain, personnel limits at testing facilities, remote work communications, travel restrictions, and other issues—ispace’s engineers were steadfast in their operations and managed to remain on schedule. In addition to the successful completion of the environmental tests, ispace also raised approximately $33.1 million (USD) in its Series B funding round and $17.9 million (USD) in bank loans; was awarded two contracts by NASA for the collection and sale of lunar resources; and, signed contracts with several customers for the transportation of payloads to the lunar surface, including lunar rovers for two government space agencies.

Full Payload Manifest for Mission 1

The lander for Mission 1 has a full payload manifest. The planned payloads for this mission include:

  • Solid-state battery test module by NGK Spark Plug

  • Rashid lunar rover by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC)

  • Transformable lunar robot by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

  • AI flight computer by Mission Control Space Services, which will collaborate with the Rashid rover

  • Multiple cameras by Canadensys

  • Panels engraved with the names of HAKUTO crowdfunding supporters

Payload capacity is still available for customers to utilize on ispace’s Mission 2 lander and several discussions for transportation services are actively ongoing.

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