Airbus Ventures announced this morning that it’s invested in ispace. The moon exploration startup was one of five finalists in Lunar XPRIZE, Google’s $30M lander competition. While no team ultimately won the grand prize, the competition was still successful in kicking off a wave of privately funded companies who have their sights set on the moon.
Meet ispace. Headquartered in Tokyo, the startup also has offices in Denver and Luxembourg. ispace designed its first-gen lunar lander in Japan. That lander, which is currently undergoing final assembly in Europe, is expected to launch on a Falcon 9 in the back half of 2022. Goes without saying…but lunar operations are pretty capital-intensive: Today’s deal brings the cislunar company to approximately $200 million in total funding.
The timeline: M1, ispace’s first mission, will perform a soft landing on the moon and deliver payloads for the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and companies form Canada and Japan.
- M2, targeted for 2023, will deploy a rover to explore the lunar surface and perform in-situ measurements.
- M3 and beyond are expected to increase the launch cadence and payload capacity of the privately funded, moon-bound robo-rovers.
Airbus POV: The company’s VC arm has a “rapidly developing” investment thesis focused on harnessing lunar resources “to deliver clean energy, rare metals, and biosphere-friendly manufactured products to Earth,” Airbus Ventures Partner Lewis Pinault said in a statement. “We see the Moon’s development as a key solution to humanity’s planetary system crises.”
Looking (pretty far) forward…ispace believes that the moon will have a permanent population of 1,000 humans by 2040, plus 10k visiting each year. While we’ll have to check back then to see how this prediction fares, clearly, the next few years will be pivotal in scaling up cislunar operations.