Despite the setbacks, ispace will launch a second mission to the moon in Q4 2024

Japanese lunar technology company isspace will make a second attempt to put a lander on the moon in the fourth quarter of 2024, just two years after it launched its first failed mission, executives said Thursday.

ispace launched its first lunar lander mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 in December 2022. The lander, called Hakuto-R, spent more than 100 days traveling to the moon. Success seemed imminent – until an issue with the altimeter malfunctioned, causing the lander’s software to misjudge the distance to the surface. Finally, the lander ran out of fuel and crashed into the moon’s surface just moments before making contact.

Despite the setback, ispace is clearly undaunted: the company is calling its second lander “Strength,” a name that CEO Takeshi Hakamada said at a press conference was meant to represent “strength- on and can return, the quality of movement. straight forward without loss.”

Although the first mission ended in disaster, the company nevertheless gained a lot of information about subsystem performance, hardware, communications and orbital maneuvering. In some ways, having something go wrong moments before landing is the best case of all possible worst-case scenarios: it means that everything is in right

For that reason, the second lander will have much of the same hardware as the first, ispace’s deputy EVP of engineering Yoshitsugu Hitachi said. Like the first lander, Resilience is 2.5 by 2.3 meters and weighs 340 kilograms without fuel. The second mission will also take the same route to the moon through a so-called “low-energy transfer orbit,” which will take months to complete.

“The analysis of the landing failure of Mission 1 clearly identified the reasons and areas for improvement, so the main focus of Mission 2 is to review and improve the verification process which has been implemented,” said Hitachi. “We are confident in the successful landing of the Resilience lander on Mission 2 and we believe it will be safe to perform a soft landing and begin the next operations on the moon.”

The biggest difference between Mission 1 and Mission 2 is the payload: for Mission 2, ispace developed a very small lunar rover to explore the landing site and collect regolith samples as part of a contract with NASA. The rover is designed to be “as small as possible, as light as possible,” ispace Europe managing director Julien Lamamy said. The rover, which weighs only five kilograms, has its own cameras, communication equipment and a one-kilogram cargo capacity. In addition to the rover, the Resilience lander will carry four commercial payloads.

iSpace says it expects to complete lander assembly in spring 2024, then begin environmental testing, which typically takes several months. From there, the lander will head to Florida for its launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

No doubt ispace will continue to gather useful data from these missions. The company, which is headquartered in Tokyo and maintains offices in Luxembourg and Denver, is also working on a third mission currently scheduled for 2026.

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