Featured image credit: SpaceX
Lift Off Time
|November 30, 2022 – 08:39 UTC | 03:39 EST|
|Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1)|
|ispace are paying for the Hakuto-R M1 portion of the mission and NASA is paying for the Lunar Flashlight portion|
|Falcon 9 Block 5, Booster B1073; 65 day turnaround|
|Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, U.S.|
Where is the spacecraft going?
|The Atlas Crater, the Moon|
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
Where will the first stage land?
|The booster will land at Landing Zone 1|
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
|The fairing halves will be recovered from the water by a recovery ship|
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
This will be the:
|– 55th SpaceX mission of 2022|
– 189th Falcon 9 mission
– 54th Falcon 9 mission of 2022
– 168th orbital launch attempt of 2022
Where to watch
|If available, an official livestream will be listed here|
What’s This All Mean?
SpaceX will launch the Hakuto-R M1 lunar lander atop the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket for Japanese company ispace. This will mark the first private Japanese mission to land on the Moon. The rocket will also carry the Lunar Flashlight CubeSat to the Moon for NASA.
Hakuto-R M1 is a technology demonstration mission by Japanese company ispace, which will attempt to land the Rashid rover on the moon. The name “Hakuto” means “white rabbit” in Japanese, which is a reference to the country’s folklore, in which it is said that a white rabbit lives on the Moon.
What is now the company ‘ispace’ was originally a team called Hakuto, who took part in the 2008 Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, a race for privately funded teams to land a lunar rover on the Moon. The competition also required the rovers to travel 500 m on the lunar surface and transmit high-definition images and videos back to Earth. In 2013, team Hakuto was selected as one of the five finalists in the competition, however, in 2018 the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition ended before any of the teams were able to launch their missions as no team was expected to reach the moon or even make a launch attempt before the competition deadline.
Although the competition ended before team Hakuto could launch their mission, the team later formed the company ispace. In 2019, ispace restructured its lunar program, renaming Hakuto to Hakuto-R, and moved forward with plans to launch its first mission in 2022. ispace considers M1 to be a technology demonstration that will validate their lander’s design and technology. They have 10 milestones as shown in the below graphic.
Founder and CEO of ispace, Takeshi Hakamada, said in a press conference, “Our first mission will lay the groundwork for unleashing the moon’s potential and transforming it into a robust and vibrant economic system… We look forward to contributing to NASA’s Artemis program as a commercial lunar transportation service and pioneering the development of future industries and connecting the Earth to the Moon and beyond.”
The primary landing site for this mission will be the Atlas crater, located in the northeast part of the Moon. The lunar landing is expected to occur in April 2023.
Pending the success of Mission 1, Mission 2 is expected to take place in 2024 and will see a second lunar landing followed by the deployment of a rover and exploration of the lunar surface. Following this, ispace plans for Missions 3 to 9 to focus on establishing the ispace lunar lander as a high-frequency and cost-effective transportation system. Mission 10 onwards will be focused on constructing an industrial platform that will enable the development of lunar water resources.
Alongside the Rashid rover, ispace announced that their other payload will be a music disc featuring the song ‘SORATO’ by the Japanese rock band Sakanaction. The song was initially released in 2018 as a part of the Team Hakuto campaign for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
The Emirates Lunar Mission
ispace initially wanted to use its own lunar lander for the mission, but it was later decided that the Rashid rover of the Emirates Lunar Mission will be used for Hakuto-R M1. This launch will be the first Moon mission for the United Arab Emirates.
The rover is equipped with four cameras: two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera, and a thermal imaging camera. The rover also has a Langmuir probe – a device that determines electron temperature and density and the electrical potential of plasma. This will be used to study the Moon’s plasma and investigate why Moon dust is sticky.
Alongside the Hakuto-R, the Falcon 9 will also carry a NASA cubesat, the Lunar Flashlight, as a secondary payload. The Lunar Flashlight is a 6U CubeSat that will be deployed into a highly elliptical orbit which will allow the CubeSat to fly within 15 km over the surface of the lunar South Pole. The satellite will shine lasers into the craters, which are within the permanently shadowed regions of the moon, so it can look for evidence of water ice.
The Lunar Flashlight will be one of the first CubeSats to reach the moon and will be the first mission to use lasers to search for water ice.
The CubeSat was initially expected to fly alongside a group of other CubeSats for the Artemis 1 mission, however, there were propulsion system issues on the CubeSat which meant it didn’t meet the deadline for being integrated into the rocket.
The CubeSat will be ejected from Falcon 9’s second stage after the trans-lunar injection. It will then use a sun sensor and solar panels to power the satellite’s 3-axes reaction wheels.
What Is Falcon 9 Block 5?
The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and, when in payload configuration, a pair of reusable fairing halves.
The Falcon 9 first stage contains 9 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon 9 first stage is able to lose an engine right off the pad, or up to two later in flight, and be able to successfully place the payload into orbit.
The Merlin engines are ignited by triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantaneously burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon 9 first stage is able to propulsively land, three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.
The Falcon 9 second stage is the only expendable part of the Falcon 9. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon 9 to put payloads in several different orbits.
For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.
Falcon 9 Booster
The booster supporting this mission is B1073, which has supported 4 previous flights. Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 will conduct two burns. These burns aim to softly touch down the booster at Landing Zone 1.
Falcon 9 Fairings
The Falcon 9’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.
Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On HAKUTO-R M1, SpaceX will attempt to recover the fairing halves from the water with one of their recovery vessel.
In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version of the Falcon 9 fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.
All times are approximate
|00:38:00||SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load|
|00:35:00||RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway|
|00:35:00||1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway|
|00:16:00||2nd stage LOX loading underway|
|00:07:00||Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch|
|00:01:00||Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks|
|00:01:00||Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins|
|00:00:45||SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch|
|00:00:03||Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start|
|00:00:00||Falcon 9 liftoff|
Rocket section adapted from Trevor Sesnic.