The failed moon landing mission Hakuto-R of the Japanese startup ispace last month was caused by a miscalculation of the distance to the surface, meaning the spacecraft ran out of fuel before reaching it, the company said on Friday.
Based in Tokyo ispace lost contact with the lander Hakuto-R Mission 1after the spacecraft attempted the world’s first commercial “soft landing” on the lunar surface.
The disaster in late April was another setback in Japan’s space program. The National Space Agency in March had to destroy the H3, its new medium-powered rocket, after it reached space, and its solid-propellant Epsilon rocket failed after launch in October.
Improvements will be made for the next two missions, said the ispace.
“Through these two missions, it is very important for us to increase our knowledge as much as possible in order to achieve stable commercialization in the future,” said the CEO of ispace Takeshi Hakamada to reporters at the Japan National Press Club.
NASA relies on Elon Musk’s SpaceX to get many of its payloads into orbit, and last week the agency awarded a lunar lander contract to a team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Following the launch of the Hakuto-R lander aboard a SpaceX rocket to much fanfare in December, ispace shares made a strong debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in April. But during the final landing phase in the early hours of April 26, ispace lost contact with the craft.
Shares in ispace jumped to ¥2,373, more than 9 times its IPO price, in the days after its debut. They fell below ¥800 after the Hakuto-R debacle, but have since recovered, last trading at ¥1,748.
Photos of debris and an impact crater at the planned Hakuto-R landing site were released this week by NASA, which has been scanning the area with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
An ispace investigation showed that after the craft passed over a large lunar rock, a problem with the sensor’s software caused a discrepancy between the actual and expected altitude, and after it ran out of fuel, it fell 5 kilometers.
A second ispace mission is scheduled for 2024 with another M1 lander, which should carry the company’s own rover development. From 2025, the company is set to work with US space software developer Draper to bring NASA payloads to the moon, aiming to build a permanently staffed lunar colony by 2040.