Japan’s ispace moon mission plans battery test

ispace lander and rover
Artwork shows ispace’s Hakuto-R lander and rover on the lunar surface. (ispace Illustration)

The Japanese moon venture known as ispace says it has recruited new corporate partners and struck a deal to put a commercial payload on its Hakuto-R lunar lander.

Ispace has arranged for two spacecraft to be launched to the moon, in 2020 and 2021, as secondary payloads on SpaceX rockets. Those will be rideshare missions similar to the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch that sent SpaceIL’s Israeli-made lander on its way to the moon tonight.

Like SpaceIL, ispace includes veterans of a team that competed in the now-defunct Google Lunar X Prize. Team Hakuto took its name from the Japanese word for “white rabbit.” The R in the name of ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar project stands for “reboot.”

Ispace says it’s raised nearly $95 million in funding to support the Hakuto-R campaign. The 2020 mission would put a probe in lunar orbit, and the 2021 mission would send a lander and rover spacecraft to the lunar surface.

In a news release issued today, ispace says Japan-based NGK Spark Plug Co. has agreed to be a corporate partner in the Hakuto-R program. Part of the partnership will involve developing a payload to test solid-state battery technology on the moon.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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