In recent years, private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are actively developing low-cost reusable space vehicles. Launch vehicles such as Falcon 9 aim to dramatically reduce the cost per kg to low Earth orbit, thus opening up many new opportunities for low-cost transits beyond Earth’s orbit. We at ispace as a private lunar exploration company based in Japan, has a vision to extend human presence into outer space. In order for mankind to live in space, we would need a sustainable ecosystem. The first step is to utilize space resources and establish an economy in space — starting from the Moon
According to recent studies, the Moon houses an abundance of precious minerals on its surface, and an estimated 6 billion tons of water ice at its poles. In particular, water can be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen to produce efficient rocket propellant. With a ‘fuel station’ established in space, the world could witness a revolution in the space transportation system. To achieve this goal, ispace is developing micro-robotic technology to provide a low-cost and frequent transportation service to and on the Moon, conduct lunar surface exploration to map, process and deliver resources to our customers in cislunar space.
As a first step to demonstrate our micro-robotic technology, our Google Lunar XPRIZE team—HAKUTO, is developing a micro rover and getting prepared for launch in March 2018. Our rover will travel at least 500 m on the lunar surface and transmit high-definition live videos back to Earth. The HAKUTO lunar rover, named SORATO, can serve as a key component for exploring and locating interesting regions of the Moon for scientific and commercial applications.
Our next step is to map valuable resources on the Moon to determine their economic and scientific value. Swarms of rovers can be deployed on the Moon to scout crater and cave locations on the lunar surface that have a high probability of resource discovery. Lava tubes holes are also of interest for lunar science and candidates of future lunar base and thus would be regarded as targets of lunar landing exploration. As we move into the next decade, ispace will work with our strategic partners to collect, store, and deliver these valuable resources to our government, institutional, scientific, and private space customers.