Ispace Lunar Exploration Missions Beyond Google Lunar Xprize

Ryutaro Ichikawa
Abstract Title: 
Ispace Lunar Exploration Missions Beyond Google Lunar Xprize
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ispace is the commercial arm that manages Team Hakuto in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) Mission. Founded in 2013, its mission is to find and characterize the resources necessary to extend human life into outer space. At present, the company has subsidiaries in the U.S (at NASA Ames Research Park) and Luxembourg. ispace’s primary goal is to locate and utilize water on the lunar surface. Observations from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper aboard India's Chandrayaan-1, and measurements from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter among others, provide strong evidence for the presence of water ice on the Moon [1]. The water may originate from endogenous sources, delivered by comets or asteroids, or by solar wind volatile implantation and then emplaced in regions where thermal and illumination conditions allows the stability of the deposits [2]. While extracting hydrogen and oxygen from lunar regolith will require significant amounts of energy and infrastructure, the higher concentrations of lunar ice which have been suggested that exist at permanent shadow regions (PSR) at the lunar poles and more recently in lava tubes, could offer an energy-efficient alternative. ispace has a three-step plan that will demonstrate its technology, locate, map and measure resources, and finally create an infrastructure to utilize those resources on the lunar surface. The first step is to demonstrate ispace’s rover technology during the GLXP mission. During the second step, in the early 2020’s, using the lander and rover (ispace’s current 4kg rover will be remodeled after the HAKUTO Project) that is currently being developed, ispace will develop a number of future exploration and prospecting missions. ispace is planning to provide 30-50 kg payload services (6kg payload service on each rover) every month after two technology validation missions. During this phase, ispace will build a platform for transportation and data service for skylight and polar water resource exploration .The initial landing-site is targeted for the Marius Hill where a 50km lava tube was detected from the data of SELENE (Kaguya) radar sounding [3] since compared to the polar region, it increases the success rate of lunar landing. The ispace rover offers a unique capability to explore such challenging lunar surface conditions by combining the two-wheeled rover and the four-wheeled rover tethered together. The rover will be able to explore deeply into shadowed areas but also it will enable lunar surface exploration avoiding volatile contamination of the regolith produced by the exhaust plume of the lander . In this phase, ispace plans to partner with space agencies and the scientific community for the development of sensors and technologies that allows better detection of water ice deposits and the composition of earth . Furthermore, by decreasing the overall mass of the rover, ispace is able to accommodate future opportunities for scientific payloads and offer unprecedented economical opportunities to test instruments, algorithms, and equipment during our missions. ispace has been working closely with multiple exploration and science payload developers in the United States, Europe and Japan. At the Luxembourg office, under the auspices of the Space Resource Initiative, ispace is teaming up with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology who will develop a Mass Spectrometer. Ispace is also partnering with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to send a dosimeter to measure cosmic rays and solar wind to minimize risks for future human missions. Finally, depending on the location, distribution, quality and quantity of the lunar ice, ispace will develop extraction, processing, and utilization techniques with interested industrial partners. An ultimate goal is to convert the ice into fuel and deliver it to private companies such as the United Launch Alliance, who recently offered to purchase fuel on the lunar surface for $500/kg [4].