December 11th at 2:38 am E.T. from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
In the wee hours of the morning today SpaceX launched yet another Falcon 9 rocket. This time carrying the first commercial lunar lander for ispace, which is a Japan based company that competed and won the Google Lunar XPRIZE. They are now developing a series of robotic lunar landers. This first lander is called ispace Mission 1 and was assemble in a partnership with ArianeGroup and carries a package of international and commercial payloads including two smaller lunar rovers for the United Arab Emirates and Japan. This mission will land in the Lacus Somniorum region of our Moon.
This mission is part of ispace’s HAKUTO-R program which came about as the result of Google’s competition which began in 2007. The contest challenged teams t send the first privately funded spacecraft on the lunar surface with the intent on reducing the cost of lunar travel. In 2018 the contested ended with out a winner as none of the teams achieved a launch. With the launch having now happened ispace beat two U.S. companies, Astrobotic Technology Inc., and Intuitive Machines LLC and if they stick the landing they will become the first private company to land a robotic craft on the Moon.
This first mission is to lay the groundwork for unleashing the Moon’s potential and transforming it into a robust and vibrant economic system, Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace said. M1 is considered to be a technology demonstration with an overall objective of validating the lander’s design and technologies, along with ispace’s business model to provide reliable transportation and date services to the lunar service. With a goal of ten milestones set between launch and landing they aim to achieve a successful criteria established for each milestone.
Flying this morning’s mission was Falcon 9 B1073, making its fifth flight now for SpaceX. It was last seen flying the Starlink 4-35 mission just forty-five days ago. It’s a new booster to launching fleet, having just began its service life in May of 2022, but has been relatively busy to now have flown five missions in just seven months. Three of the previous four flights she landed on the drone ship, A short Fall of Gravitas, and once on the ship Just Read the Instructions. Today’s mission however the booster didn’t land on one of the two drone ships currently stationed at Port Canaveral. Instead the Falcon 9 touched down at LZ-1 roughly nine minutes after lift off.