Hours before the Artemis I mission Orion capsule splashed down on Sunday, Dec. 11, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the ispace HAKUTO-R mission to the Moon from the from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida by SpaceX occurred at 2:38 a.m EST, approximately 10 hours prior to the return to Earth of the Artemis I mission Orion capsule.
Onboard the HAKUTO-R lunar lander are two Canadian payloads from Canadensys Aerospace and Mission Control Space Services.
In statement regarding the Canadian government funded payloads, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) stated that “Canadensys is providing an AI-enabled operational lunar 360-degree imaging system, including multiple cameras, which was designed to withstand the harsh lunar environment. Among other tasks, the system will be used to image two rovers (one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the other from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in the United Arab Emirates) as they are deployed from opposite sides of the ispace lander. Mission Control will demonstrate an artificial intelligence-integrated flight computer to classify types of geological features as a rover drives around the lunar surface. Traditionally, such analysis would be performed on Earth. This computer could unlock new possibilities for rovers to perform actions by themselves, such as navigation and classification of lunar geological features.”
Another Canadian company, NGC Aerospace, “will receive lunar imagery from this mission to test their planetary navigation system, similar to the GPS technology used on Earth. They will use the imagery obtained from this mission in preparation for a future mission where the technology will guide and support the safe landing of a lunar vehicle, in a precise location” according to the CSA.
Funding for the all three Canadian companies was through the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). At total of $3.3 million were awarded to Canadensys ($2.49 million) and NGC Aerospace Ltd. ($726,000) in 2020. Mission Control Space Services was awarded $3 million in 2021. The LEAP program has a $150 million in funding.
ispace have set 10 milestones for the HAKUTO-R mission. In setting these milestones, ispace stated “between launch and landing, and aims to achieve the success criteria established for each of these milestones. Recognizing the possibility of an anomaly during the mission, the results will be weighed and evaluated against the criteria and incorporated into future missions already in development between now and 2025. Mission 2 and Mission 3, which also will contribute to NASA’s Artemis Program, will further improve the maturity of ispace’s technology and business model. Future announcements on progress of milestone achievement are expected to be released once attained.”
The milestones include: