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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

SpaceX launches Japanese lander, UAE rover to the moon

•, By Mike Wall

A pioneering multinational moon mission is underway.

A private Japanese moon lander carrying a United Arab Emirates (UAE) rover, among other payloads, launched early Sunday morning (Dec. 11) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The Hakuto-R lander lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 GMT), kicking off the first mission for Tokyo-based company ispace. If all goes according to plan, Hakuto-R will make a soft lunar landing next spring — the first ever for a Japanese-built spacecraft.

"This is a very important moment," ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada told late last month, referring to the launch and the rest of ispace's Mission 1. "It is opening a door for the commercial cislunar industry."

A smooth liftoff

The Falcon 9 had a lot to do on Sunday morning.

The rocket's first stage came back for a landing at Cape Canaveral just over eight minutes after launch. The Falcon 9's upper stage deployed Hakuto-R(opens in new tab) as planned about 47 minutes after liftoff, then ejected a tiny NASA moon probe called Lunar Flashlight six minutes later.

The briefcase-sized Lunar Flashlight will then make its own way to the moon, a roughly three-month trip that will end with insertion into a near-rectilinear halo orbit — the same path that will be occupied by Gateway, the small space station that NASA plans to build as part of its Artemis moon program.

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