SpaceX prepares a Falcon 9 rocket for launch early Wednesday morning. The mission, with both private and public payloads, illustrates the current state of the space industry and the changing way we explore space.
It’s a fairly routine launch for SpaceX, but the mission has a big impact. Aboard the Falcon 9 rocket is ispace’s Hakuto-R spacecraft, itself packed with an assortment of goodies on its way to the lunar surface. Also on board is NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Lunar Flashlight, a lunar probe that will search for water ice from the point of view of a seldom used track.
The Falcon 9 is set up to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 3:39 a.m. ET on Wednesday, November 30. Should the launch need to be scrubbed, a backup opportunity will be available on Thursday at 3:37 a.m. ET. The live broadcast should start 15 minutes before launch, which you can watch SpaceX, YouTubeor at the live stream above.
The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt a vertical landing on landing zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station approximately eight minutes into the mission. The deployment of the Hakuto-R spacecraft is scheduled for the 46-minute, with Lunar Flashlight six minutes later.
The launch itself is not bad, but it does have historical consequences. Hakuto-R, a product of Tokyo-based ispace, will attempt to place the company’s Mission 1 (M1) lander on the lunar surface. Should Hakuto-R M1 land safely and soundly, ispace becomes the first private company to accomplish this feat. A successful mission would usher in a new era, one in which commercial providers routinely deliver goods to the moon. Indeed, ispace’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 is the first of what the company hopes will be many low-cost deliveries to the lunar surface.
The Hakuto-R M1 lander will perform reconnaissance duties as a stationary probe, but it will also attempt to surface several payloads, including the 22-pound (10-kilogram) Rashid robber built by the United Arab Emirates and a transformable ball-like robot named SORA-Qdeveloped by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the TOMY toys company.
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Other Hakuto-R payloads include a AI powered flight computer from the Canadian Space Agency, a moon camera developed by the Canadian company Canadensys, a solid-state battery, a CD with the song “SORATOperformed by Japanese band Sakanaction, and panel engraved with the names of crowdfunding supporters. The Hakuto-R M1 lander is expected to land in the lunar Atlas crater in April 2023.
Hakuto-R M1 isn’t a private company’s first attempt to land a lander on the moon. That distinction goes to Israel’s SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, which tried with support from the Israeli space agency the Beresheet lander on the moon in 2019. Unfortunately, computer glitches and communication problems resulted Beresheet to crash on the moon surface. The United States, the Soviet Union and China all managed to get landers safely the lunar surface, but those were public space missions.
The Falcon 9 will also launch JPL’s Lunar Flashlight, a probe designed to operate from near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the moon. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because you think of NASA’s CAPSTONE probe, which recently became the first satellite to operate in NRHO. CAPSTONE paves the way for a future space station called gatebut Lunar Flashlight has another mission.
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The suitcase-sized probe will come within 15 kilometers of the moon’s south pole along its highly eccentric orbit, from where it will search for water ice in permanently shadowed craters. Lunar Flashlight will use four infrared lasers to shine beams of different colored light in wavelengths that can be absorbed by surface water ice. The more absorption is observed, the more likely ice is present on the surface.
“We’re bringing a literal flashlight to the moon — shining lasers into these dark craters to look for definitive signs of water ice covering the top layer of the moon’s regolith,” Barbara Cohen, principal investigator of Lunar Flashlight at NASA, said in a statement. pronunciation. “I’m excited to see our mission contribute to our scientific understanding of where water ice is located on the moon and how it got there.”
Like I said, there’s a lot to unpack with this launch. It all starts, fingers crossed, early tomorrow morning with the modest launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
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