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 Given that the prize is no longer active, carrying a somewhat smaller logo is understandable since SpaceIL is no longer competing for the full $20 million Grand Prize.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.

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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 Space.com 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.

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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 MitsukoshiLater, 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!

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Jan 29, 2013

White Label Space Moves Full Operations to Japan




Media Contacts:

For White Label Space
Takeshi Hakamada
Phone: +81-(0)80-3276-1330

For X PRIZE Foundation
Eric Desatnik
Phone: 310.741.4892

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
White Label Space Moves Full Operations to Japan to
Pursue $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE


Tokyo, Japan (January, 30 2013) - White Label Space, an international team competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, announced that it will now be run out of Japan. Previously, the team was operating out of both Japan and the Netherlands.  The team’s pivot to Japan is designed to maximize its chance of being on the winner’s podium. White Label Space is the only Google Lunar X PRIZE team currently active in Japan and has a unique network in that country’s media and space industry. The team will now focus its efforts on furthering the development of its Japanese moon rover, benefiting from the advice of its academic partner, the Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohoku University.

Takeshi Hakamada replaces Steve Allen as team leader. Mr Hakamada was a co-founder of the team’s Japan branch and has been manager for all White Label Space operations in Japan.
Former team leader Steve Allen comments “It's been a fantastic journey and a privilege to work with so many talented space enthusiasts. Since its establishment, the Japanese branch of the team has gone from strength to strength and now it’s clear that the future of the team lies in Japan. I would like to thank all of our friends and supporters who’ve brought us this far.”

Also stepping down from his role is Dr. Andrew Barton, who was the team’s Chairman. “With under three years left until the expiry of the prize, the focus is now shifting to those teams with access to the lunar surface. Unfortunately, our efforts to develop a lunar lander in Europe were unsuccessful but flying a rover as piggyback on somebody else’s lander is still a great chance to win second prize and will make a big difference by inspiring millions of people”, commented Dr. Barton.
The Japanese branch of the team was established in 2010 with support from Tohoku University’s professor Kazuya Yoshida, an internationally recognized expert in space robotics and rovers. In 2011, the branch announced its plans to the Japanese public with a press conference in Tokyo that attracted extensive coverage in the national media. Throughout 2012, the team continued its promotion work in Japan, running a series of successful educational and public outreach events including ‘The Rover Challenge’, a traveling hands-on learning opportunity for school children.

ABOUT WHITE LABEL SPACE
White Label Space is one of 23 teams around the world competing for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, the largest incentivized competition offered to date. White Label Space officially joined the Google Lunar X PRIZE in May 2009. The team’s name originates from the concept of a “White Label” product, which is a generic brand developed by one company and then sold to another brand. White Label Space sees the Google Lunar X PRIZE as the beginning of the next wave of space exploration where the common person can be engaged as a contributor and not just a spectator. White Label Space was initially founded the team in 2008 by a group that included former employees of the European Space Agency. Visit www.whitelabelspace.com for more information.

ABOUT GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE
The $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE is a global competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high definition video and images back to Earth. The first team to do so will claim a $20 million Grand Prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million Prize. Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission.  For more information, go to www.googlelunarxprize.org.

ABOUT X PRIZE FOUNDATION
Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the leading organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself.  The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity.  The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in five Prize Groups: Education; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences.  Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Express Scripts, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, and the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE.  For more information, go to www.xprize.org.  

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Dec 7, 2012

Crowd Funding Campaign Successful

White Label Space's Japan office has successfully run a crowd funding campaign to support the team's rover development. The crowd funding campaign was run on the Japanese website campfire, which is broadly equivalent sites in other countries such as kickstarter.

The campaign raised a total of 2.4 million yen (US$30,000) and offered its supporters goodies such as
photo albums, stickers, T-shirts, a mini-rover kit, an invitation to a rover test-driving event or naming rights on the prototype.

The preparations took around 2 months, from the first planning meetings until the project was published on the campfire website. The video below (in Japanese) was specially produced to promote the campaign. In it, Takeshi Hakamada describes the team's GLXP effort and also points out the special significance of the competition's long-term vision to Japan.





The campaign was online for a total of 60 days and in that time accumulated financial contributions from 284 supporters. Most of the money raised will go to the construction costs for the new prototype rover model.

The team is considering running even bigger and more ambitious campaigns in the future but the team hopes that the success of this campaign will already lead to new potential sponsors.

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