The intensifying rivalry between the US and China in the space industry and Elon Musk’s ambitious Mars exploration program have led to the emergence of dozens of startups around the world. Humans are competing for resources that can support the development of life beyond Earth. Among them is a small Japanese company that wants to announce itself next month.
Tokyo-based ispace Inc. plans to send a lunar lander on Nov. 22 with several government and commercial payloads, including two rovers. Like Musk’s dream of a Martian colony, the startup’s grand goal is to build a human settlement on the Moon by 2040. But before that, they want to become the lunar version of FedEx – making money by shipping scientific equipment and commercial goods to the moon.
Ispace’s first mission will test not only the technological potential the company has built since its founding in 2010, but also the faith of its sponsors, one of whom is the former head of SoftBank Group Corp. Much depends on the mission’s success, including a potential initial public offering as early as this fiscal year and the opportunity to gain a larger stake in an industry that as estimated by Morgan Stanley, will triple to $1 trillion over two decades starting in 2020.
“There is a huge market for such services,” 43-year-old Takeshi Hakamada, the founder and chief executive officer of ispace, said in an interview. “If something goes wrong with this attempt, we can still use the feedback from the failure to improve the quality of the next run.”