TOKYO — ispace, a Japanese start-up responsible for Team HAKUTO’s entry in the Google Lunar X Prize, is planning to announce “the largest fund raised in Series A in the global space industry” next week to support its efforts to mine the moon.
“It involves a round of significant financing and details around the next missions of ispace, planned after the currently run HAKUTO project,” according to an invitation sent to journalists.
It’s not clear if the funding round will help Team HAKUTO get its rover to the lunar surface in time to win any money in the Google Lunar X Prize. The team’s rover is scheduled to ride on an Indian PSLV booster that’s been reserved by Team Indus, a competitor that send its own rover on the same launch.
However, Team Indus says it needs $35 million to complete and launch its rover. Meanwhile, time is running out. Competitors need to land their rovers on the surface and get the vehicle to travel 500 meters by March 31, 2018, to win the $20 million first prize. There is also a $5 million prize for the second team to accomplish the same task.
ispace’s website indicates the next phase beyond the prize competition involves prospecting the moon between 2018 and 2023. Missions will include “mapping valuable resources…to determine economic value of resources. Our rover swarms are deployed on the Moon to scout crater and cave locations on the lunar poles that have a high probability of resource discovery,” the company says.
In the third phase from 2024 to 2030, the company plans to “work with our strategic partners to collect, store, and deliver these valuable resources to our government, institutional, scientific, and private space customers.”
The company has been busy forging partnerships with government agencies. In December 2016, ispace signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly create a road map for lunar resource development.
“Space resource development is attracting a great deal of attention around the world,” said ispace Founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada in a press release. “We think it is important to actively participate in the rule-making and commercialization while we are technologically competitive globally with our HAKUTO project.”
ispace said it would work with JAXA on:
- “A comprehensive plan for the space resource industry including necessary technologies and industrial value chains involving lunar resource mapping (including positions, compositions, characteristics), mining, storage, delivery, sales and utilization in space;
- “Role allocation between public and private sectors for R&D activities and public procurement, as well as building of a national and an international framework needed for industry creation; [and,]
- “Considerations for other necessary actions, including the expansion of relevant consortiums.”
In March 2017, ispace announced it had signed a MOU with Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu to work together on technologies needed to mine the moon.
“Within this partnership, ispace intends to develop, through its European office based in Luxembourg,
several key technical services including payload development and engineering integration and support,” the company said in a press release.
“The Luxembourg Government will co-fund relevant research and development activities in this field, such as the ispace roving spectrometer project, which aims to bring an innovative mass spectrometer developed by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) to the surface of the moon to explore elemental and isotopic compositions of lunar ice and regolith,” the company added.
“It is a great honor to collaborate with Luxembourg and to be the first space resource company to be recognized for our focus on the Moon. We see the Moon as a strategic stepping stone to further spur human activity in space,” Hakamada said. “With strong technological, legal, and financial support, we are convinced that Luxembourg is the best place for us to begin our European operations.”