Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Japanese Hakuto-R Enters Lunar Orbit

One of the interesting missions of the last several months that I've been keeping an eye open for is the Japanese Hakuto-R lunar Mission.  The first post that included the probe was two months before its launch, although there's more background on the mission almost exactly a month later.  The mission launched December 11 on a Falcon 9 launch from CCSFS, SLC-40. The same launch carried another important lunar probe, this one for NASA's JPL, called the Lunar Flashlight.  Flashlight was a cubesat that was originally supposed to fly on Artemis I, and was lucky not to have, as the way Artemis I unfolded appears to have destroyed half the cubesats on board.

Today we get word that as of last night, March 20, the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 (M1) lander entered orbit at 9:24 p.m. Eastern.

The spacecraft will attempt a landing in Atlas Crater, located on the edge of Mare Frigoris in the northeastern quadrant of the near side of the moon, around the end of April. The company said March 21 it would announce a specific landing date in the near future. Mission 1 is carrying a set of customer payloads from companies and organizations, such as a small rover called Rashid developed by the United Arab Emirates.

The company is working on a second lander, Mission 2, that is similar in design to the spacecraft now in lunar orbit. It is scheduled to launch in 2024 carrying another set of customer payloads as well as a “micro rover” ispace has developed. Mission 3 will use a larger lander developed by ispace’s U.S. subsidiary in partnership with Draper, which won a NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services award last July to fly payloads to the lunar farside.

Hakuto-R M1 is a privately developed mission by the Japanese company ispace.  A successful landing on the moon will make ispace the first private mission to land there, and only the fourth entity overall.  Only the governments of the former USSR, the USA and the People's Republic of China have landed on the moon.  

Back in November, ispace posted a mission summary that captures some of the ambitious story of the mission.

M1 is considered a technology demonstration with an overall objective to validate the lander’s design and technology, as well as ispace’s business model to provide reliable lunar transportation and data services. For M1, ispace has set 10 milestones between launch and landing, and aims to achieve the success criteria established for each of these milestones. Recognizing the possibility of an anomaly during the mission, the results will be weighed and evaluated against the criteria and incorporated into future missions, supporting the company’s evolution of sustainable technology and its business models.

The accumulated data and experience from M1 will be incorporated into future designs and operations to enhance missions, beginning immediately with Mission 2, which is already in the development stage and is scheduled for 2024. As a private corporation, ispace’s business model calls for continuous, short cycles of technology development to increase capability and reliability in order to usher in an era of full-scale commercialization of the space industry. This model will incorporate knowledge from both missions into Mission 3 (M3) planned for 2025. M3 will contribute to NASA’s Artemis Program under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program with a mature lander design and operations based on data and experience acquired during the first two missions.

 The 10 M1 Milestones. ispace graphic.  Today marks Success 7 being achieved. 


  1. It's very cool. I don't know how many years they've worked on this, but they're within maybe six weeks of having achieved every one of their 10 milestones of success.

    The fact that no other company in history and only three countries have landed on the moon tells us how hard it is. I think the closest is that Israeli company SpaceIL’s Beresheet attempt in 2019. Beresheet failed within a minute or two before touchdown.

    1. Beresheet failed due to a faulty radar altimeter - they will be trying again Real Soon Now. And, of course, it will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9. Again.

  2. It will be interesting to see if this catches the imaginations of people not usually paying attention to space endeavors. It would be great for them to succeed.