Japanese New Space exploration and space resources company Ispace has signed a launch agreement with SpaceX to launch their first privately-funded Lunar mission in 2020.
The agreement was signed on 26 September 2018 and covers the launch of an Ispace probe that will orbit the Moon by a SpaceX Falcon-9 launch vehicle.
Ispace hopes to be able to conduct its first mission by mid-2020, and it intends to follow this up with a Lunar lander mission in mid-2021.
Tokyo-based Ispace hopes to exploit the resources on the Moon, particularly water. If Ispace can find water then it will extract hydrogen and oxygen to use as fuel for spacecraft and launch vehicles for further planetary exploration and other missions.
“We picked SpaceX based on its track record of launches and costs,” Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said. “We plan to keep looking for opportunities like lunar surface transport services and resource exploration.
Ispace is backed by large investors, including Japanese telecommunications giant KDDI, contracting company Shimizu, and Japan Airlines. The company raised U.S.$91.2 million from these investors in February 2018, and Shimizu has even opened an office dedicated to exploring business opportunities on the Moon such as building bases and ice drilling.