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SpaceX launches Japanese lander and UAE lunar rover into space.

Published: 2022-12-11

The American aerospace company SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 launch vehicle with a Hakuto-R descent module of the private Japanese company ispace, on board of which is a miniature Rashid lunar rover, created in the United Arab Emirates. The rocket lifted off from the spaceport at Cape Canaveral in Florida at 02:38.

If all goes according to plan, the Hakuto-R descent module will make a soft landing on the lunar surface next spring - the first ever for a Japanese lander. “This is a very important moment. This will open the door to a commercial lunar industry,” said ispace Founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket made a soft landing on a special platform of the cosmodrome about eight minutes after launch. The upper stage of the rocket delivered the Hakuto-R to its intended orbit approximately 47 minutes after launch. Another six minutes later, a tiny US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lunar probe called Lunar Flashlight was launched into orbit.

This device went to the Earth's satellite and in about three months will enter the halo orbit. It will be located in the same orbit where NASA plans to build the Gateway space station in the future as part of the agency's Artemis lunar program. The goal of the Artemis program is to ensure a sustainable human presence in orbit and on the surface of the Moon. The miniature probe Lunar Flashlight, after entering a given orbit, will search for water ice in the shadowed lunar craters near the south pole of the satellite.

The main payload of the current SpaceX mission was the Japanese descent module Hakuto-R. It is expected to land in Atlas Crater, located southeast of the Sea of Cold, in April 2023. The successful implementation of this mission will be an important milestone for Japan and the private space industry. To date, only the USSR, the USA, and China have succeeded in soft landing on the Moon.

ispace understands that the success of the current mission is not guaranteed. The whole mission is divided into 10 stages and landing is the ninth of them. Hakuto-R carries on board a miniature 10-kilogram Rashid rover, the first lunar rover in the history of the UAE. After landing on the surface of the satellite, the rover should start taking photographs using different cameras, as well as analyze the environment. Its mission is expected to last one lunar day (about 14 Earth days).

In the future, ispace plans to continue the implementation of lunar missions. In 2024, the company intends to launch another research vehicle to the Moon, and in another three years to prepare a new project for implementation. The third ispace mission will be part of a NASA program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services, which plans to use private landers to deliver scientific equipment from the US aerospace department to the moon.