4 Dec, 2020
ispace will use its HAKUTO-R missions to collect and sell regolith to the American space agency
Tokyo, Japan – Today, on December 3, 2020, at 1:00PM EST, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it has awarded contracts to both ispace, inc. (ispace) and the company’s subsidiary, ispace Europe S.A. (ispace EU), to acquire regolith from the lunar surface to be purchased by the space agency.
ispace, by leveraging its strategic global presence, was awarded two of four contracts offered to companies who submitted proposals for NASA’s request to purchase lunar regolith. The first contract, awarded to ispace, inc. (the company’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan), will collect regolith with its lander during its first mission (M1) planned in 2022[i]. The second contract, awarded to ispace EU (ispace’s subsidiary in Luxembourg), will use ispace’s rover to collect regolith during the company’s second mission (M2) planned in 2023[ii]. Both M1 and M2 fall under ispace’s HAKUTO-R program.
These contracts are set to mark a historic moment as the first-ever commercial transaction for the collection of lunar resources, as well as the first transaction for space resources to take place off-world. ispace believes this will be a first step toward normalizing the commercial trade of space resources among international stakeholders. The impact of a successful demonstration could stimulate partnering countries of the U.S.-led Artemis Accords, including Luxembourg and Japan, to increase their lunar exploration activities, as well as to increase public interest in space resources, which may encourage greater investment in lunar exploration from both the public and private sectors. ispace also believes this will be a triggering event to enable an Earth-Moon economic system.
Legislative actions and efforts have been made to facilitate commercial transactions for space resources. In Luxembourg, where ispace EU is based, the Law of 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources allows the collection and ownership transfer of regolith by commercial enterprises. In Japan, a nonpartisan debate on a space resources bill is underway, and in November 2020, the submission of a bill to allow companies to own space resources was approved by various parties, including Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party; that bill is expected to be submitted to a Diet session in the near future.
Comment by Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO, ispace: “We are pleased to receive these two awards from NASA for what will be a historic moment for humankind. For ispace, this collaboration with NASA in two regions where we operate shows the positive momentum for our development as an internationally operating company. For the space industry, as well as the potential for all industries on Earth, this marks the beginning of a cislunar economy where economic value can be created on the Moon, apart from Earth—but for the benefit of Earth’s economy.”
ispace, inc. (https://ispace-inc.com/)
ispace is a lunar exploration company with over 100 staff and offices in Japan, Europe and the United States. Founded in 2010, ispace managed Team HAKUTO, one of the 5 finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The company has raised a cumulative total investment of approximately $125 million (USD) in investment. The funding is being used to build a small commercial lunar lander, which aims to provide a high-frequency, low-cost delivery service to the Moon. Aspiring to be a gateway for the private sector to bring their business to the Moon, ispace has also launched a lunar data business concept to support companies with lunar market entry. ispace is part of a team led by Draper, which was selected by NASA to compete in its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Program, and ispace Europe was selected by ESA to be part of the Science Team for PROSPECT, a program which seeks to extract water on the Moon.
HAKUTO-R is a multinational commercial lunar exploration program operated by ispace. It includes ispace’s first two lunar missions: Mission 1, a soft lunar landing planned to launch in 2022[iii], and Mission 2, a lunar landing and deployment of a rover planned to launch in 2023[iv]. For both missions, the HAKUTO-R lander is planned to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The program aspires to lay the groundwork for high-frequency lunar transportation. Corporate Partners of HAKUTO-R include Japan Airlines, Suzuki Motors, Citizen Watch, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, NGK Spark Plug, Takasago Thermal Engineering, and Sumitomo Corporation. Media Partners for HAKUTO-R include TBS, Asahi Shimbun, and Shogakukan.
[i] Planned launch schedule as of December 2020.
[ii] Planned launch schedule as of December 2020.
[iii] Planned launch schedule as of December 2020.
[iv] Planned launch schedule as of December 2020.