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Konica Minolta

ispace just raised $90 million to launch two private moon missions by 2020

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Japanese company ispace has raised $90.2 million in a Series A funding round, an amount it’s calling the “largest ever” Series A in commercial space financing. The funding comes from Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, Development Bank of Japan, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Konika Minolta and others, and will help the company continue its progress towards a very ambitious target: Launching not one, but two lunar missions within the next three years.

ispace intends to launch its first Moon mission, aptly dubbed ‘Mission 1,’ by the fourth quarter of 2019, and then to do a second by the end of 2020. The first will put its lander into orbit around the Moon for observation, and then the second will see the same lander descend to the Moon’s surface, where it will deploy mapping rovers to conduct further experimentation.

This Japanese private space venture is currently in the running for the Google Lunar XPrize for lunar missions, and anticipates that the Moon will have a population of around 1,000 permanent residents by 2040, with as many as 10,000 visitors and tourists making the lunar trip every year. Its goal is to create a transportation system that can provide regular cargo and scientific service to the moon, something that will be required for continued Moon-based (and/or Moon base) operations.

Commercializing the Moon is a logical next step after continuing to make low-Earth orbit accessible to private companies and enterprise – I think the biggest question now is whether or not the timelines here are realistic.