ispace Europe tapped by the European Space Agency for mission to extract water from the Moon

Space startup ispace, which is headquartered in Japan but has a European subsidiary based in Luxembourg, will take part in PROSPECT, a program run by the European Space Agency (ESA) that intends to extract water from the Moon’s southern pole, with a target mission date of 2024 or 2025.

PROSPECT isn’t just a cool reference to the actual act of prospecting — in typical space science style, it stands for something. Specifically, “Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation,” which is clearly a mouthful. But it describes more fully what the project is: a payload that the ESA is creating to be delivered via a lunar mission planned by Russia’s Roscosmos. ESA’s payload will in fact prospect, looking for lunar water ice in the regions of lunar pole permanently bathed in shadow.

ispace’s contribution will take the form of providing talent via three members of the company selected to help plan, operate and make sense of data retrieved by the mission. ispace Europe’s Carlos Espejel, a Space & Earth Mine Planning Engineer, will lead a key element of the mission tasked with investigating in-situ resource exploration (meaning using the resources on-site for future Moon missions) from a prospecting perspective.

Founded in 2010 in Tokyo, ispace raised more than $100 million in funding in 2018, which it will put toward two lunar missions planned for 2020 and 2021 launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.