ispace was founded in September 2010 by Takeshi Hakamada and has grown to over 85 staff from 13 countries. I knew of ispace a few years back primarily in my visits to Luxembourg and at the time when they had also set up an office in Luxembourg. It is well known that ispace raised nearly $100 million USD in its Series A funding and hit the head lines as being able to raise more than any other NewSpace company in history.
ispace in my view is one of the most successful NewSpace startups and here are the reasons why:
ispace has drawn upon the NewSpace collective vision. By that I mean, they are focusing on the Moon and looking upon water resources to empower and enable utilisation of space resources for developing the future ecosystem. They speak of utilising Earth and Moon as one ecosystem and certainly draws upon the collective mentality of how we can’t do it alone. That is what I believe NewSpace is about – inclusiveness.
They summarise this quite nicely:
‘While technology is important, it alone can’t overcome every difficulty. Finance, law, policy, science, education, and environmental conservation all comprise a social system that must integrate into the planning process. Our vision has attracted the attention of many potential stakeholders around the world who we need to succeed at creating this new ecosystem.’
I am using this word to say, pride in what we are doing, pride in how we are doing and achieving it. The final paragraph by CEO Hakamada on about us:
‘With Japan’s high-quality craftsmanship and coordinated leadership, ispace contributes to the construction of a cosmic-scale sphere of life that will support humankind. We invite you to contribute in developing a sustainable world by making the Earth and Moon one ecosystem that brings abundance to our lives.’
There is no doubt that ispace is a Japanese company, yet at the same time, they are also an international company. They have offices in Silicon Valley and also Luxembourg.
I was in Luxembourg before and after the passing of the Asteroid Mining legislation and I would say that the growth and success of ispace cannot be separated from the trends that were occurring. Whilst serving humanity and creating abundance is important, the methodology of Japanese high quality craftsmanship and coordinated leadership – which I think is highly valued and difficult to dispute. Japanese goods and services are well regarded internationally for their quality.
ispace has a very strong team, and this is from my personal interactions with some of them and also looking at their profiles. For a start, when you look at the layout of the employees, the leaders of ispace are not necessarily at the top but rather are spread out which gives the impression that it is a flat organisation as opposed to a traditional hierarchical organisation. They also have a healthy gender balance, with a few in key roles.
ispace has a plan and one that we can easily grasp. To lay it out:
Mission 1 2020
The first mission will be the first privately- led Japanese test mission to inject the lander into a lunar orbit and relay lunar data to the Earth. It’s a critical mission to test data-gathering technology and Earth-Moon transport service technology.
Misson 2 2022
The first mission will be the first privately- led Japanese test mission to inject the lander into a lunar orbit and relay lunar data to the Earth. It’s a critical mission to test data-gathering technology and Earth-Moon transport service technology. The second mission will put Japan’s first lander on the moon, deploying the rover to be driven on the lunar surface. This serves as a test mission to transport payloads to the Moon and send lunar surface data back to Earth. The objective is to test data-gathering technology and Earth- Moon transport service technology, much like the first mission.
Mission 3 -9 2022
The next seven missions will involve constructing the Earth-Moon transportation platform, centering on polar water exploration. From this point, we will increase the frequency of lunar landings and rover expeditions to transport customer payloads and send back data upon request.
Mission 10 2023
Mission 10 and beyond will focus on building an industrial platform for steady lunar development. With our highly specialized landers and rovers, we can pioneer the discovery and development of lunar resources.
5. Credible Technology
ispace is developing small, lightweight and cost efficient landers which appears to primarily aim at developing agile and speedy processes and development in transportation in space. By incorporating Japanese manufacturing they aim to reduce weight and scale and make transport services more flexible.
Their credibility also stems from their humble beginnings and large ambition through their competing in the XPRIZE and partaking to the race to explore the lunar surface. From there to 2021 onwards their ambition is to develop advancements in autonomy, telecommunication, withstanding temperatures in polar regions, standardisation of payload interface and improving exploration through swarm robotics. This is consistent with the developments and trends in smallsats.
From 2022, the vision is to develop rovers not limited to a 4 wheel design, but rather has the extensive capability which includes tools such as drills and manipulators to need the needs of surface exploration. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are awarded by NASA and have a combined maximum value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years.
In Nov 2018, NASA announced 9 US Space companies chosen to provide delivery services to the moon including Draper Laboratory with teams including ispace.
ispace is successful and going to be even more so because of the support they have at home and internationally. For me ispace is truly an international company from the start, they did not take it slow in terms of launching their offices, they launched internationally and they hit the ground running. Moreover, they are consistent with their messages. Having seen their presentations for about half a dozen times, I would say their message is clear and impactful. I remember their first and their last as just as thought-provoking.
When I last spoke to their team, I could sense a strong desire to work with other NewSpace and non-traditionally space players. I feel their vision is aligned with mine, in terms of embracing NewSpace players to grow the Newspace ecosystem.
What do you think makes a successful entrepreneur/startup?
What is the most important trait for a successful entrepreneur?
How can we create a successful NewSpace ecosystem?
How about sharing your thoughts on the newspace2060 blog here.
Written by Helen Tung
Emergent Tech Advisor/ MINERVA fellow- Space Applications & GNSS, EU – Japan Centre
Creative Convenor, EU-Japan NewSpace2060 Illustrated Haiku Competition 2019
#ispace #NewSpace2060 @EUJapanCentre