Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
On Wednesday, a Japanese company called ispace announced that it has two missions planned to the Moon within the next three years and that it has acquired ride-share launches on two Falcon 9 rockets to carry out those flights. The company’s founder, Takeshi Hakamada, also said he has a long-term vision to have a city on the Moon visited by 10,000 people a year by 2040.
If this all sounds a little too ambitious, well, welcome to the world of aerospace, which is always heavy on promotion and big ideas. And we like that. NASA didn’t land on the Moon because it was timid. However, we also feel compelled to bring at least a splash of realism to the conversation.
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Two missions
The two missions ispace announced Wednesday are an orbiter launch in mid-2020 and a more complicated lander-and-rover mission a year later. Both will be secondary payloads on Falcon 9 rocket launches, being released by the rocket’s second stage in geostationary transfer orbit. From there, they will proceed to the Moon under their own propulsive power.
The initial orbiter is a relatively straightforward mission. Jamie Denniston, the lead lander engineer for the company, said mission success would be reaching lunar orbit. Beyond that, the company hopes to take images of the surface and validate some of its navigation systems for future missions.
Following this mission, ispace has completed a preliminary design review of its lander, which houses two rovers. There is a larger “mother” rover that can then deploy a smaller “child” rover to enter into “skylights” that lead to lunar lava tubes. The child rover would remain attached to its mother rover by a tether, which would provide power and communications. This is both strikingly cool and ambitious.
Mission success does not require these complex maneuvers, however. For this mission, due to launch in