Japanese startup ispace raises $46M to support planned moon missions

Japanese startup ispace has raised $46 million in a fresh round of Series C funding as it looks to complete three lunar lander missions in three years.

The funding will go toward the second and third of the planned missions, scheduled for 2023 and 2024. The first mission, which ispace aims to conduct in the latter half of 2022, is being furnished by earlier financing.

The Series C was led by Japanese VC firm Incubate Fund, with additional investment from partnerships managed by Innovation Engine, funds managed by SBI Investment Co., Katsunori Sago, Aizawa Investments and funds managed by HiJoJo Partners and Aizawa Asset Management. Incubate Fund’s investments in ispace stretch back to the company’s seed round in 2014.

Ispace’s total funding now stands at $195.5 million.

The company said last month it had started building the lunar landing flight module for the 2022 mission at a facility owned by space launch company ArianeGroup, in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The lander for that first mission, the Hakuto-R, will take three months to reach the moon, largely to save costs and additional weight from propellant. It will deliver a 22-pound rover for the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, a lunar robot for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and payload from three Canadian companies. The lander will reach the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The 7.5 foot-tall Hakuto-R will also be used in the second mission in 2023, to deposit a small ispace rover that will collect data to support the company’s subsequent missions to the moon. For the final mission, the Toyko-based startup is developing a larger lander in the United States.

Ispace describes its long-term goal as being a “gateway for private sector companies to bring their business to the Moon.” The company has particular interest in helping spur a space-based economy, noting on its website that the moon’s water resources represent “untapped potential.”

Correction: The story has been updated to reflect that the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center is in United Arab Emirates, not Saudi Arabia.