SPACEX OFFERS PRIVATE JAPANESE HKUTO-R MOONLANDER
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched ispace’s small Hakuto R M1 lunar lander towards the Moon after a delay of nearly two weeks.
Liftoff occurred at 2:38 AM EST (7:38 UTC), Dec. 11, 2022 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. According to SpaceX’s Twitter account, the launch was delayed in late November to allow for additional preflight checks.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched the 750-pound (340 kilogram) lander into space. It did so in just 47 minutes and 53 minutes respectively. Both were placed in a ballistic lunar transfer orbit.
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The first stage of Falcon 9, core B1073, was successfully returned to Landing Zone 2 several miles away from the launch site. This was the fifth successful landing of the booster. It will be refurbished and re-used on future missions.
The Japanese company will now be the first to soft-land on Earth’s closest celestial neighbor. Due to the longer travel time for the ballistic lunar transfer trajectory it will take approximately four months for the Moonlander to reach its destination. Touchdown is scheduled for April 2023 at Atlas crater, which is located in northeastern Africa’s Earth-facing side.
Falcon 9 also carried the Lunar Flashlight CubeSat, a commercial lunar transport service, to the Moon as part of Artemis’ Artemis program. This NASA mission will use lasers to shine on the Moon’s surface in search of evidence of water ice.
This Hakuto-R mission 1 aims to establish the foundation for future transportation. Mission 2 will land another Series 1 lander on the Moon’s surface in 2024. Missions 3-9 will focus on the establishment of the lander as a cost-effective, high-frequency mode of transportation to reach the lunar surface.
Rashid, a small lunar rover that was built by the United Arab Emirates, is one of the payloads on the M1 mission. The rover is equipped with two high-resolution cameras: a microscopic and thermal imaging camera, as well as a probe to determine electron temperature and density.
NASA will soon land an evolved lander, called “Series 2”, on the Moon’s surface in 2025 or 2026. The Japanese company has joined forces with Draper in the United States, which has a Commercial Lunar Payload Service contract that allows payloads to be sent to the far side.