ispace (Tokyo) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it has awarded contracts to both ispace, inc. (ispace) and the company’s subsidiary, ispace Europe S.A. (ispace EU), to acquire regolith from the lunar surface to be purchased by the space agency.
ispace, by leveraging its strategic global presence, was awarded two of four contracts offered to companies who submitted proposals for NASA’s request to purchase lunar regolith. The first contract, awarded to ispace, inc. (the company’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan), will collect regolith with its lander during its first mission (M1) planned in 2022. The second contract, awarded to ispace EU (ispace’s subsidiary in Luxembourg), will use ispace’s rover to collect regolith during the company’s second mission (M2) planned in 2023. Both M1 and M2 fall under ispace’s Hakuto-R program.
These contracts are set to mark a historic moment as the first-ever commercial transaction for the collection of lunar resources, as well as the first transaction for space resources to take place off-world. ispace believes this will be a first step toward normalizing the commercial trade of space resources among international stakeholders. The impact of a successful demonstration could stimulate partnering countries of the US-led Artemis Accords, including Luxembourg and Japan, to increase their lunar exploration activities, as well as to increase public interest in space resources, which may encourage greater investment in lunar exploration from both the public and private sectors. ispace also believes this will be a triggering event to enable an Earth-Moon economic system.
Legislative actions and efforts have been made to facilitate commercial transactions for space resources. In Luxembourg, where ispace EU is based, the Law of 2017 on the Exploration and Use of Space Resources allows the collection and ownership transfer of regolith by commercial enterprises. In Japan, a nonpartisan debate on a space resources bill is underway, and in November 2020, the submission of a bill to allow companies to own space resources was approved by various parties, including Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party; that bill is expected to be submitted to a Diet session in the near future.
Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace, commented, “We are pleased to receive these two awards from NASA for what will be a historic moment for humankind. For ispace, this collaboration with NASA in two regions where we operate shows the positive momentum for our development as an internationally operating company. For the space industry, as well as the potential for all industries on Earth, this marks the beginning of a cislunar economy where economic value can be created on the Moon, apart from Earth—but for the benefit of Earth’s economy.”