Mar 15, 2023

Remebering the origins of White Label Space in Japan

While scanning through my old messages I can across this photo from July 2008 when I first visited professor Kazuya Yoshida at his lab in Tohoku University to discuss partnering with our team to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Following my visit he agreed to join White Label Space as the lead for our moon rover development.


Nov 29, 2022

ispace Ready to Send HAKUTO-R Lander to the Moon

Japanese company ispace is ready to make history with its attempt to be the first private company to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

We wish our former GLXP team members the best of success in this heroic effort!


Mar 29, 2019

XPRIZE to Award $1 Million for Robotic Lunar Landing After Prize is Over

The XPRIZE Foundation has announced that it will offer a $1 million “Moonshot Award” to former Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competitor SpaceIL if its Beresheet spacecraft is able to successfully land on the lunar surface next month. 

This news sort of explains something interesting that was visible in SpaceIL's Earth selfie photo below. Can you see what it is?

Photo by Beresheet Lander in Earth Obit showing Logo Cluster (credit SpaceIL)
Yes, there is a small GLXP logo on the SpaceIL Beresheet spacecraft in bottom right corner of the logo cluster. 

In the rules for the GLXP the competitors were required to display a substantially-sized GLXP logo on their lunar spacecraft and transmit images of the logo back to Earth. Given that the prize is no longer active, carrying a somewhat smaller logo is understandable since SpaceIL is no longer competing for the full $20 million Grand Prize. Nevertheless, any logo space and mindshare on such an expensive mission is of substantial value and an organisation in SpaceIL's position would have many interested parties willing to pay substantial sums for sharing some of the moonlight limelight.

Aside from being a nice round number of impressive size, the $1 million dollars figure that XPRIZE Foundation is offering for this achievement has some interesting historical significance that is worth exploring:
  • $1 million is a pretty typical price to pay for a major in-space advertising campaign, as can be seen from our Top Ten list of similar campaigns in the past
  • It is also equal the Lander System Milestone Prize that three of the other former GLXP teams were awarded during the prize itself. At the time, the judging panel appointed by XPRIZE Foundation determined that SpaceIL's mission preparations were insufficiently advanced. 
Considering that Google already spent over $25 million on the GLXP, including operations and milestone prizes, spending another $1 million to fly a logo on SpaceIL's historic mission is actually quite a good deal to cement the Google Lunar XPRIZE's important role in kickstarting the era of private lunar exploration.


Mar 25, 2019

SpaceIL Privately-Funded Lunar Lander On Way to Moon

Former Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competitor, and Israeli nonprofit, SpaceIL has launched a (largely) privately funded spacecraft to land on the Moon. See article.

The total budget for the mission is estimated at US$95 million. 

Funding for the mission has predominantly been from private donations, most notably from Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and American philanthropist Sheldon Adelson. The team has also attracted support from the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) and a number of aerospace companies and research institutions in Israel. The SpaceIL team was founded as a nonprofit organization wishing to promote scientific and technological education in Israel. 

The photo below shows their beautiful spacecraft named Beresheet.

The Beresheet Robotic Lunar Lander (credit SpaceIL)

After dozens of other fundraising approaches were attempted by the various GLXP competitors around the world, it is interesting and impressive to see SpaceIL succeed through their model which combines national prestige and an education-oriented nonprofit foundation.

The team's precise plans beyond this first mission are yet to be clearly articulated but the company that led the development and integration of their lander, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has already announced a partnership with the German space company OHB System to offer the commercial delivery of payloads to the lunar surface for the European Space Agency (ESA). Under the agreement, IAI will handle integration of payloads onto the lander and be responsible for launch arrangements. OHB will be the prime contractor for those missions, managing work with ESA and payload developers.

Although the Beresheet mission comes too late to claim the Google Lunar XPRIZE prize money, it undoubtably represents a fantastic achievement of the prize's main goal, namely to stimulate new commercially-viable models for lunar exploration.

The Beresheet mission is sure to kick off a wave of similar small lunar surface missions with substantial commercial involvement in the coming years. We look forward to seeing other GLXP teams, and their spin-offs like our very own ispace, achieve lunar surface access in the not too distant future.


Dec 14, 2017

Congratulations ispace !

This week the Japanese space start-up ispace raised $90.2 million in funding to develop a lunar orbiter and a lunar lander, as their first steps towards building a transportation and lunar mining business.

ispace is framing its future roadmap as the Moon Valley project, which begins with the first orbiter and lander missions (M1 and M2) by 2020. After that the company will continue to develop an Earth-Moon transportation platform with 7 more missions (M3 to M9) exploring for water in the permanently shadowed areas at the Moon's poles as well as carrying customer payloads.

Beyond that, in missions M10 and thereafter, the company plans to build the industrial infrastructure on the Moon needed to support the mining of polar water and the further development of lunar resources.

The avid reader may notice that ispace had its early beginnings as part of the White Label Space Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) team, which later rebranded to become Hakuto. In the years that followed, Hakuto secured the sponsorship of some impressive commercial partners in Japan including Au, Suzuki, Japan Airlines (JAL), Zoff, IHI, Toray and Mitsukoshi. Later, Hakuto became one of the 5 GLXP teams to secure a launch contract and advance to the final round of that competition.

The company ispace was created by the steady and dedicated commitment of core members of the Hakuto team, under the leadership of Takeshi Hakamada (Hakamada-san).

In many ways Hakuto's, and later ispace's, commercial success has been built on the very principle that White Label Space set out to prove back in 2008, namely that a professional team of space engineers and enthusiasts could build an exciting and engaging lunar mission concept that would attract the attention of big commercial brands and the public at large, drawing in the financial resources to actually do the hard stuff and make such a complex and ambitious mission happen.

We wish Hakamada-san and the whole ispace and Hakuto team the very best on their unprecedented journey to the next planetary body and beyond!