Ispace wins $55 million NASA contract for lunar landing mission

The Japanese company Ispace, which is also establishing operations in the U.S., has won a $55 million NASA contract to send a lunar landing plus communications relay satellites to the Moon in 2026.

Ispace’s Hakuto-R1 lander attempted a landing on the Moon in April, but crashed. The company has a second Hakuto-R mission presently targeting launch next year. The NASA contract would the company’s third, which will be built in its new U.S. facility and be called Apex-1.

In today’s briefing, Ispace representatives announced that the primary customer for its upcoming Mission 3 is NASA, which has selected the company as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS). Ispace stated during the briefing that it has signed a $55 million contract with NASA for Mission 3 in order to land near the lunar south pole carrying approximately 210 pounds (95 kg) of scientific payloads.

But that’s not all the mission will do. On its way to the lunar surface, Mission 3 will deliver relay satellites that will remain in orbit around the moon to serve as communication relays.

Though it will not be surprising if these launch dates slip, Ispace is in a strong position to succeed, considering it is presently the only private company to launch a Moon lander, and got very close to putting it down on the lunar surface successfully.