Luxembourg’s government and Tokyo-based space lunar robotic exploration company ispace Inc. on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the context of the SpaceResources.lu initiative with focus on developing miniaturized technology to discover, map, and utilize resources on the Moon.
Japanese start-up ispace was created by Hakuto, a finalist team of Google’s prestigious innovation competition Google Lunar XPRIZE. The company already works together with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and will continue to do so.
Within the framework of this MoU, ispace intends to focus, through its new European office based in Luxembourg, on business development, R&D and on several key technical services, including payload development, engineering and integration.
Five or six engineers in Luxembourg
The start-up employs 20 engineers in Japan and is planning to hire five or six in Luxembourg.
For its part, Luxembourg contributes by providing funding through national R&D grants or programs of the European Space Agency (ESA) to co-fund relevant research and development activities such as the ispace “roving spectrometer”.
This project aims to bring an innovative mass spectrometer developed by LIST to the surface of the Moon to explore elemental compositions of the lunar ice and regolith.
Dr. Tom Wirtz, who heads the Advanced Instrumentation for Ion Nano-Analytics (AINA) group at LIST said: “we have a mass spectrometry technology that is of major interest for space applications, and ispace has unique means to deploy this technology to space.”
The company ispace Europe SA will be hosted in Luxembourg City within the facilities of Paul Wurth InCub which offers, in cooperation with the national business incubator Technoport, a dedicated support program for innovative and technology-driven companies.
“Moon as a strategic stepping stone”
Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, stated: “With ispace from Japan, we welcome another foreign company which chose our country as a European hub for developing highly advanced technologies and capabilities like robotics for exploring and mining resources in space.”
“It is a great honour to collaborate with Luxembourg and to be the first space resource company to be recognized for our focus on the Moon. We see the Moon as a strategic stepping stone to further spur human activity in space”, said Takeshi Hakamada, CEO of ispace.
“With strong technological, legal and financial support, we are convinced that Luxembourg is the best place for us to begin our European operations,” he said.
The governmental SpaceResources.lu initiative aims to promote and support the commercial use of resources gathered from celestial bodies such as asteroids or from the Moon.