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Lunar landing company ispace sees opportunities in Japan-U.S. Artemis deal

Lunar landing company ispace sees opportunities in Japan-U.S. Artemis deal

 


WASHINGTON A deal between the United States and Japan on contributions to the Artemis lunar exploration campaign could create additional opportunities for a Japanese lunar lander developer.

Tokyo-based ispace cited the April 10 agreement between NASA and the Japanese government regarding roles in Artemis as a potential new market for the company. Under the terms of the agreement, Japanese space agency JAXA will provide a pressurized rover for the Artemis mission starting in the early 2030s, with NASA including two seats for Artemis landing missions for JAXA astronauts.

“We believe that the agreement between Japan and the United States on the Artemis program, reached in April this year, has created a very positive business environment allowing us to work with and contribute to the governments of the different countries,” he said. said Takeshi Hakamada, general manager of ispace. during a May 10 earnings call regarding the company's financial results for the fiscal year ending March 2024.

He argued that the deal would create demand for the types of small robotic moon landers that ispace is developing. A number of scientific exploration and technology demonstration missions using small landers will most likely be needed, he said. Once manned missions are launched, additional missions using small landers will also be required.

He acknowledged later in the call that it was too early to estimate the extent of this demand for additional landers from Japan. He noted that the Japanese government plans to invest one trillion yen ($6.4 billion) over 10 years in the country's commercial space sector. “We assume that a significant portion of funding will be allocated to Moon-related activities in the future,” he said.

The company is currently working on three landers in Japan and the United States. Its Mission 2, or M2, lander, a copy of the HAKUTO-R M1 lander that crashed while attempting to land in April 2023, is nearing completion. Its launch is planned on a Falcon 9 at the end of this year.

The company's U.S. subsidiary, ispace US, is developing its first APEX 1.0 lander under a contract with Draper for a 2026 NASA Lunar Commercial Payload Services mission that ispace calls M3. In Japan, ispace is beginning design of a lander called Series 3, supported by a grant from the Japanese government, which will be launched on a mission designated M6 in 2027.

This parallel development is capital intensive. The company raised 8.1 billion yen in a secondary share sale on March 28, with most of the funding going toward aspects of the M3 lander, including its launch and work on two necessary relay satellites to communications with the lander, which will go to the other side. from the moon. The company also borrowed 7 billion yen from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation on April 30.

“We expect to incur a net loss due to a significant R&D cost for the development of the landers. We therefore concluded that it is crucial for us to maintain a capital cushion to improve our financial health,” he said. said Jumpei Nozaki, CFO of ispace. , explaining why the company raised money through the sale of shares and the loan.

The company reported net revenue of 2.36 billion yen for the year ended March 2024, with a net loss of 2.37 billion yen. That loss, he said, was reduced by proceeds from an insurance policy the company had taken out for the M1 lander. For the current fiscal year ending March 2025, ispace forecasts a much larger loss of nearly 12.5 billion yen, with net revenue of 4.03 billion yen.

The sharp increase in net loss, Nozaki said, is related to the planned completion and launch of M2 and ongoing work on M3. That will represent a significant net loss, he said. But let me emphasize that this net loss amount is consistent with our original plan and projections.

The company also announced during the conference call that it had signed a new customer for M3, a Romanian company called CDS, which will demonstrate precision location measurement technology on the lander. CDS is M3's third customer after NASA and Rhea Space Activity, which will test navigation technologies on the relay satellites accompanying the lander.

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