In the next 22 years, Ispace hopes to have created a base on the moon. The Japanese newspace firm took baby steps on Wednesday in Luxembourg when it demonstrated technology that will be essential for achieving this goal.
In a lunar surface recreation inside the Paul Wurth Incub, Ispace and the Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology showed off a lunar rover equipped with technology that will enable it to prospect for water on the moon. In future, this precious resource will be transformed into rocket fuel to help fly rockets around space.
Ispace wants to help build a habitable lunar base, with capacity of welcoming up to 1,000 residents and up to 10,000 visitors by 2040.
The firm emerged out of the Hakuto microbiotics team, which designed a lunar rover as part of the Google Lunar X Prize. It raised $90m in funding during the competition and today is overseen by Ispace, which founded its European subsidiary in Luxembourg in 2017.
It was one of around 20 newspace firms to settle in the grand duchy after Luxembourg launched the Spaceresources.lu initiative in 2016, aimed at building an ecosystem with all the elements needed for mining space resources.
Ispace Europe has been able to benefit from financial support in Luxembourg and the expertise in mass spectrometry at List where a team of scientists has been working on a device for use in the fields of health, nano-analysis and space. List has developed a prototype of a mass spectrometer that can be integrated into the Ispace lunar rover. It was this that was demonstrated on Wednesday.
“The next phase will therefore be dedicated to the prototyping phase of the complete mass spectrometer and to tests in real conditions, namely under temperature and radiation conditions specific to the space environment. Tests also include measuring vibration resistance at launch, among other things,” Dr Tom Wirtz, head of the AINA research group in the List's Materials Research and Technology department explained.
The first lunar rover and lander is expected to be deployed in 2020, in partnership with Space X to collect data from the moon’s surface. A second deployment of the lunar lander is scheduled for 2021 to bring back images and test the technology.