Private Japanese lunar lander successfully enters moon's orbit

If all goes to plan, it will be the first private lunar lander to safely touch down on the moon's surface.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of the Hakuto-R lander.
An artist's impression of the Hakuto-R lander.


Japan's Hakuto-R lander has entered lunar orbit, as it prepares to make its descent to the lunar surface.

The Tokyo-based company behind the lander, ispace, announced in a Tuesday press statement that it successfully performed a lunar insertion maneuver.

It's a crucial last step before touching down on the moon. If successful, ispace will be the world's first private company to perform a successful lunar landing.

Japan's historic lunar lander

The Hakuto-R spacecraft launched on December 11 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission.

“While the lander has performed multiple deep space maneuver operations, this maneuver represents the longest burn performed by the propulsion system during the mission," the company wrote in its press statement.

"The achievement demonstrates ispace’s ability to successfully deliver spacecraft and payloads into a stable lunar orbit," the company continued. "The successful insertion of the lander into lunar orbit is an important step toward the establishment of a payload transportation service, as it demonstrates that ispace is capable of transporting customer payloads to orbit around the Moon."

The Hakuto-R lander is now orbiting the moon and it will attempt to land on the lunar surface in late April. The company, ispace, said it will soon reveal the exact date for the landing attempt.

In 2019, Israel's private Beresheet lunar lander, unfortunately, crashed as it attempted a lunar landing attempt. Success isn't guaranteed for ispace, though the firm hopes its Hakuto-R lander will make it the first private company to perform a successful lunar landing on the moon.

Japan and the UAE are making space history

The Hakuto-R lander is carrying government as well as commercial payloads. These include the Emirati-built Rashid rover, which was designed in the United Arab Emirates and was designed to study the geology of the moon.

The Rashid rover is just one part of the UAE's ambitious space plans. The country's space program launched the Mars Hope Probe back in July 2020, and it successfully went into orbit in February 2021. Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is also currently stationed aboard the International Space Station as part of the Crew-6 mission that launched earlier this month.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) also hopes the Hakuto-R lander will successfully deploy a small robot to the surface called the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM).

If all goes to plan, ispace will soon prove that it has a relatively low-cost platform for taking payloads to the moon. The firm said in its statement that it is "in active negotiations with a number of global companies regarding future lunar missions, many of which have identified demand not only for lunar landings but also for transportation to orbit around the Moon."

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