Japanese startup ispace, which is developing lander technology to support exploration of the moon, is opening an office in Denver, the company announced today. The Colorado location was chosen because of its access to local aerospace engineering talent, and the plan is for the company to quickly staff up a full local engineering team. Ispace also announced that it has hired Kursten O’Neill, a seven-year SpaceX vet, who will oversee development of ispace’s next-generation lunar lander craft.
The U.S. expansion comes as ispace looks to work more closely with NASA through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, where ispace is currently partnering with U.S.-based space specialist Draper on its bid to provide lunar lander transportation services for the agency. Ispace also hopes to leverage its international footprint to help be a strategic linkage between the U.S. and its international partners more broadly across the Artemis program, which is NASA’s mission series intended to help humans return to the moon and establish a more permanent presence there for continued science and research purposes.
Ispace is set to launch its first lunar landers for its Mission 1 and Mission 2 operations, currently planned to take place starting with a debut launch in 2021. Its planned Mission 3 will be the first to carry its forthcoming next-generation lander, to be designed and manufactured in the U.S. by a team led by O’Neill, which will boast a larger footprint and greater payload capacity.