|Lunar robotic spacecraft|
|Industry||Commercial lunar lander and rover|
|Predecessor||White Label Space|
|Founded||September 10, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan|
|Products||Robotic lunar landers and rovers|
Number of employees
|50  (2018)|
ispace Inc. is a private Japanese company developing robotic spacecraft technologies to build landers and rovers to compete for both transportation and exploration mission contracts from space agencies and private industry. ispace will enable clients who may want to discover, map, and use the natural lunar resources.
Although ispace is now independent, it began as a partner of a European organization called White Label Space. White Label Space (WLS) was an international team of space engineers that was founded in 2008 to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, for a grand prize of $20 million to send a spacecraft to the Moon's surface, and have it travel 500 meters. WLS was headquartered in the Netherlands and led by Steve Allen. The European side aimed to develop the team's lunar lander while the Japanese group consisting of Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab and led by Kazuya Yoshida was to develop a rover.
In 2010, White Label Space Japan LLC, the predecessor of ispace was founded by Takeshi Hakamada to manage the commercial and technical aspect of the Japanese group. On January 30, 2013, when the European teammates ceased substantial involvement in the prize, the Japan-based members decided to continue the work, and WLS transferred the GLXP participation right to White Label Space Japan LLC. Steve Allen, WLS's leader was succeeded by Takeshi Hakamada.
In May 2013, the team's parent company, White Label Space Japan changed its name to ispace, while the GLXP team was renamed "Hakuto" on July 15 of the same year. Team Hakuto did not succeed in undertaking a lunar mission during the GLXP, but following the cessation of the competition, ispace continued its lunar exploration plans and, in 2018, the company succeeded in raising over US$90 million in private funding to develop its own lunar lander in addition to continuing its work on lunar rovers.
By September 2018, ispace planned to test their systems by orbiting around the Moon but not land on it. The company signed up for two launches on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, to take place in 2020 and 2021. ispace is also developing a mission concept called Polar Ice Explorer that would prospect for lunar resources on a region near the lunar south pole.
On 10 October 2018, an industry team formed by Draper Laboratory, along with ispace, General Atomics, and Spaceflight Industries submitted a proposal for a commercial lunar lander to NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program. According to Draper, ispace will serve as the team's design agent.
The long-term strategy of ispace is to build landers and rovers to compete for both transportation and exploration mission contracts from space agencies and private industry. NASA aims at contracting private industries to scout and mine lunar water and other lunar resources to support a future Moon-based infrastructure. The funding for the first two missions was originally secured from a consortium of Japanese funds and companies.
In 2018, ispace signed a working agreement with Draper to serve as the team's design agent, which brought about significant changes. In August 2019, ispace announced a restructuring of its lunar program, now called Hakuto-R, in light of rapid increases in customer demand for payload delivery services in the lunar exploration industry, especially from the recent Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract awarded to Draper and its partners, including ispace. A significant change was the elimination of the technology demonstration orbiter mission in 2020 in favor of moving more quickly toward a demonstration of landing capabilities. Hakuto-R Mission 1 will include a lunar lander (Artemis-7 ) that is now scheduled for launch aboard a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket in October 2021. Hakuto-R Mission 2, a lunar lander and rover, is scheduled for launch in March 2023.