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SpaceX grounds Falcon 9 carrying first private lunar lander

SpaceX postponed the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a lunar lander and rover built by a private Japanese aerospace company and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency rover to the Moon, by one day.

The medium-lift launch vehicle, originally scheduled to fly at 0339 ET (0839 UTC) on Wednesday 30 November, is now expected to launch on Thursday 1 December at 0337 (0837 UTC). SpaceX announced the decision to push back the initial launch hours before Falcon 9 was due to take off, citing the need to perform “additional pre-flight checkouts” on Twitter. 

The HAKUTO-R Mission 1, led by ispace, a private company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan will attempt the first commercial landing of a spacecraft on the Moon. ispace’s Series 1 Lander will be tasked with lowering Rashid, a rover built by the UAE Space Agency, safely into the Atlas Crater, an 87-kilometre-wide structure formed by an ancient impact event, located in the Northeastern region.

“We believe Mission 1 will be the turning point in commercial space exploration,” ispace’s founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada previously said in a statement

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Rashid is a compact four-wheeled rover weighing just 10 kilograms, making it smaller than the Chinese Yutu-2, the last rover that made it onto the Moon in 2018. The solar-powered rover is designed to study the Moon’s surface and figure out why lunar regolith is sticky, Adnan Al Rais, senior director of the Remote Sensing Department at the UAW’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, previously said

The rover carries various instruments, including two high-resolution cameras to zoom in on microscopic details and for thermal imaging, as well as a probe to measure the temperature, density, and electric potential of electrons of plasma. If Rashid is successfully deployed, it will be the first time the UAE Space Agency has explored the Moon. Last year, it launched Hope, an orbiter around Mars in its first-ever mission. 

ispace was founded in 2010 to focus on building a commercial lunar service carrying landers and rovers for space agencies and private companies looking to colonize the Moon. It has scheduled a mission to launch a second rover in 2024. Meanwhile, the UAE Space Agency’s long-term vision is to build a human settlement on the Mars by 2117.

You can watch a livestream of the SpaceX flight scheduled for tomorrow here. ®




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