Musk’s SpaceX lands new Japanese client


TOKYO • Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, signed its second Japanese customer in as many weeks — but the payload this time will be lunar rovers rather than a group of space tourists.

Tokyo-based lunar-exploration start-up Ispace has signed up for launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in 2020 and 2021. The first will carry a lunar lander into orbit around the moon, and the second aims to put one on the moon’s surface, so it can deploy a pair of rovers, Ispace said yesterday.

“We share the vision with SpaceX of enabling humans to live in space, so we’re very glad they will join us in this first step of our journey,” Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said in a statement.

The deal comes a little more than a week after Musk revealed that the billionaire founder of Japanese online retailer Start Today Co, Yusaku Maezawa, had signed up to be the first paying passenger to travel around the moon on a SpaceX rocket in 2023.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur, whose net worth is about US$2.3 billion (RM9.52 billion), plans to invite as many as eight artists to join him. Musk hasn’t ruled out being on the trip.

Ispace envisions business opportunities including ferrying cargo to the moon, exploring for water, and eventually facilitating human settlement.

Last year, it raised close to US$95 million from investors including Suzuki Motor Corp and telecom giant KDDI Corp to fund its maiden lunar launches.