SpaceX just backed out of launching a Japanese lunar lander.
The Hakuto-R lander, which was built by Tokyo-based company ispace, and NASA’s Lunar Flashlight cubesat were scheduled to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday (Dec. 1) at 3:37 a.m. EST. launched. (0837 GMT). But that’s no longer the plan.
“After further launch vehicle inspections and data review, we are withdrawing from tomorrow’s launch of @ispace_inc’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1; a new target launch date will be shared once confirmed,” SpaceX
announced via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Wednesday evening.
Related: Japanese ispace lander will bring UAE lunar rover to lunar surface in 2022
It was the second such delay for the mission: It was originally planned to launch early Wednesday (Nov. 30), but SpaceX pushed things back a day “to allow for additional pre-flight checkouts.”
The Falcon 9 slated to launch ispace’s Mission 1 is a veteran of four previous flights. The first stage previously helped launch the SES-22 communications satellite last June and three batches of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites, company representatives wrote in a description of the upcoming lunar mission.
(opens in new tab).
Artist’s impression of ispace’s Hakuto-R lander on the moon. (Image credit: ispace)
Mission 1 is a test flight for ispace, which aims to see how Hakuto-R performs in deep space and on the lunar surface.
After launch, the lander will embark on a roughly four-month journey to the moon. If Hakuto-R makes its landing on Earth’s nearest neighbor, it will make history; to date, only the space agencies of the United States, China, and the Soviet Union have achieved soft landings on the lunar surface.
A successful landing will also enable the United Arab Emirates to make history of its own; the nation’s first lunar rover, a 10-pound robot named Rashid, will deploy from Hakuto-R and study its environment for about 14 Earth days, if all goes according to plan.
An artist’s depiction of the UAE’s planned lunar rover seen on the lunar surface. (Image credit: MBRSC)
NASA also has a stake in the upcoming flight. The agency’s suitcase-sized Lunar Flashlight is designed to hunt for water ice near the south pole of the moon, where NASA plans to build a lunar base through its Artemis program.
The cubesat will do its job from orbit around the moon, which it will reach after a journey of about three months through deep space.
Mike Wall is the author of “ Outside (opens in new tab) (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab) . follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab) .