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Japanese startup raises $46m to help fund moon mission

Ispace is scheduled to launch two lunar landing missions in 2022 and 2023 under the Hakuto-R programme.

Japanese lunar lander developer Ispace has raised $46m in a new funding round to support future missions to the moon.

Tokyo-based ispace said it raised $46m in Series C round from seven investors, led by Incubate Fund, a Japanese venture capital fund. With this new round, ispace has raised $195.5m to date.

Ispace was founded more than a decade ago to compete for Google’s Lunar XPrize, a $20m award for the first privately funded team to land on the moon, travel 500 meters (1,640 feet) and beam high-definition video back to Earth. While the competition concluded without a winner in 2018, a number of teams persisted, betting that increased government spending on moon missions and the falling cost of achieving orbit could support a cottage industry of would-be space explorers. Ispace has billed itself as the lunar version of FedEx Corp., with plans to eventually make money by hauling scientific equipment and commercial goods to the moon.

The company’s first lunar landing mission is scheduled for the second half of 2022 aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. It plans to deliver payloads for the United Arab Emirates space programme, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and three firms contracted by the Canadian Space Agency. Ispace said it plans to use the new funds to finance its second trip in 2023 and to increase the size of its lunar lander for the third one the following year.

Takeshi Hakamada, Founder of Ispace, said: “There are an increasing number of stakeholders entering this ecosystem from the development and investment side. We are very grateful to our investors for supporting ispace to develop a high-frequency lunar transportation platform.”