Japanese lunar exploration startup ispace unveiled its next-generation lunar lander on 24 August, 2021 — in time for its third lunar mission.
Known as Series 2, the lander is currently expected to launch in 2024, and is larger in size and payload capacity than the firm's previous Series 1 lander, per the company's press release.
Series 2 will stand 9 feet tall and 14 feet wide (approx. 2.7 meters by 4.2 meters), and will be designed, manufactured, and launched in the U.S.
ispace is working closely with experts in the field, including the General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group (GA-EMS) and Draper, both of which will play critical roles in the lander's development.
What Series 2 will do
The lander's roles will include delivering payloads to both lunar orbit and the lunar surface. Its payload capacity for lunar surface deliveries will be 1,102 lbs (500 kg), and up to 4,409 lbs (2,000 kg) for lunar orbit. And can carry governmental, commercial, and scientific payloads thanks to its modular payload bay design.
"As we look to the near future, Series 2 will enable us to not only increase our capabilities, but also to provide greater access and opportunities for our customers. Series 2 is a positive step toward realizing a diverse and sustainable cislunar ecosystem," Takeshi Hakamada, founder & CEO of ispace, said in the release.
More interestingly, perhaps, is the fact that the Series 2 lander aims to be the first commercial lunar lander to survive a chilly lunar night — which lasts as long as 14 Earth days. Moreover, it's being designed to be able to land on either the near or the far side of the Moon, including its polar regions.
On top of that, the lander is meant to have one of the most sophisticated and accurate landing technologies available, including surface relative velocimetry, pinpointing landing areas, and hazard avoidance.
Even though ispace is still considered a startup, it has been in the space game for years, working closely with SpaceX during its HAKUTO-R program. And even if NASA recently announced its plans for sending humans to space by 2024 are ruined, the space race continues, and it looks like ispace will be forging ahead alongside the best of them.