Japanese Startup Raises $46 Million to Help Fund Moon Mission

Ispace Inc., a Tokyo-based space startup planning its first trip to the moon next year, has raised $46 million from Japanese investors to help bankroll future missions.

The Series C round was led by Incubate Fund, with participation from six other investors including former SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Strategy Officer Katsunori Sago and funds managed by Innovation Engine Inc. and SBI Investment Co., ispace said in a statement on Wednesday. That brings the total amount raised by the company to about $195.5 million.

Ispace was founded more than a decade ago to compete for Google’s Lunar XPrize, a $20 million award for the first privately funded team to land on the moon, travel 500 meters (1,640 feet) and beam high-definition video back to Earth. While the competition concluded without a winner in 2018, a number of teams persisted, betting that increased government spending on moon missions and the falling cost of achieving orbit could support a cottage industry of would-be space explorers. Ispace has billed itself as the lunar version of FedEx Corp., with plans to eventually make money by hauling scientific equipment and commercial goods to the moon.

Read more: Japan Lunar Council Urges Action to Secure Lead in Space Economy

The company’s first lunar landing mission is scheduled for the second half of 2022 aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. It plans to deliver payloads for the United Arab Emirates space program, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and three firms contracted by the Canadian Space Agency. Ispace said it plans to use the new funds to finance its second trip in 2023 and to increase the size of its lunar lander for the third one the following year.

“There are an increasing number of stakeholders entering this ecosystem from the development and investment side,” founder Takeshi Hakamada said in the statement. “We are very grateful to our investors for supporting ispace to develop a high-frequency lunar transportation platform.”

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