SpaceX has again postponed the launch of a Japanese lander to the moon
SpaceX has just given up again on launching a Japanese lander on the moon.
The Hakuto-R lander, which was built by Tokyo-based ispace, and NASA’s Moonlight cubesat were scheduled to launch at the top a SpaceX A Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday (Dec. 1) at 3:37 a.m. EST (0837 GMT). But that’s not the plan anymore.
“After further launch vehicle inspections and data review, we are canceling tomorrow’s launch of @ispace_inc HAKUTO-R Mission 1; a new target launch date will be shared once confirmed,” SpaceX announced via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Wednesday evening.
It was the second such delay for the mission: it was originally scheduled to launch early Wednesday (Nov. 30), but SpaceX pushed things back a day “to allow for additional pre-flight checks.”
The Falcon 9 scheduled to launch iSpace Mission 1 is a veteran of four previous flights. Its first stage previously helped launch the SES-22 communications satellite last June and three batches of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites, company officials wrote in description of the upcoming lunar mission (opens in new tab).
Mission 1 is a test flight for ispace, which wants to see how Hakuto-R performs in deep space and on the lunar surface.
After liftoff, the lander will begin an approximately four-month journey to The moon. If Hakuto-R manages to touch Earth’s nearest neighbor, it will make history; so far, only the space agencies of the United States, China, and the Soviet Union have achieved soft landings on the lunar surface.
A successful touchdown would also allow the United Arab Emirates to write their own history; the nation’s first lunar rover, a 22-pound (10-kilogram) named robot Rashidwill deploy from Hakuto-R and study its surroundings in about 14 Earth days if all goes according to plan.
NASA also has a stake in the upcoming flight. The agency’s briefcase-sized lunar flashlight is designed to search for water ice near the moon’s south pole, where NASA plans to build a lunar base through its Artemis program.
Cubesat will do its work from a lunar orbit, which it will reach after a roughly three-month journey through deep space.
Mike Wall is the author of “There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).
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