ispace, a Japanese space startup launched its own private lander to the Moon aboard a SpaceX rocket (HAKUTO-R mission), marking a significant step towards what would be a historic first, both for Japan and the private space sector.

The ispace craft aims to put a small NASA satellite into lunar orbit to search for water deposits before touching down in the Atlas Crater and will be the first of many deliveries of government and commercial payloads. If successful, the mission will be the first to put a fully privately funded and built lander on the lunar surface.

Mission success would also represent a milestone in space cooperation between Japan and the US at a time when China is becoming increasingly competitive and rides on Russian rockets are no longer available in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.