Japanese companies plan to produce 'first hydrogen on the moon' in mission set to launch this year




Takasago Thermal Engineering has handed over a specialised electrolyser to Ispace for upcoming lunar mission


Japanese private lunar exploration company Ispace plans to produce the first hydrogen from electrolysis on the moon during a mission set to launch this winter — which if successful, could be a gamechanger for future space travel.


Fellow Japanese firm Takasago Thermal Engineering yesterday (Monday) formally handed over a specialised water electrolyser and storage tank system to Ipsace.


This equipment has been designed and tested to ensure stable fluid control even at a sixth of Earth’s gravity, stay steady through vibrations and shocks during launch and landing, and maintain equipment temperatures even in the vacuum of space.


The electrolyser will be launched to the moon during the second Hakuto-R mission in late 2024, on a Falcon 9 rocket made by Elon Musk's SpaceX. The equipment will be mounted on top of the lander, with surface-level water — which Ispace describes as “untapped potential” — used for electrolysis powered by solar panels.


From there, Ispace and Takasago aim to generate and compress both hydrogen and oxygen in repeat cycles, remotely operated from a mission control centre in Tokyo.


“In the future, if hydrogen and oxygen are generated from water collected on the lunar surface, the hydrogen can be used as fuel for rockets, and the oxygen can be used by humans to live on the lunar surface,” Takasago noted in a press release.


Remote electrolysis in a lunar environment could also have wider implications for extending the length of a mission while reducing the amount of expensive fuel needed from launch to carry out operations once on the surface.


However, not only is this test extremely small-scale, with the electrolyser able to fit into a small suitcase, but it will also depend on a successful landing.


Ispace’s first Hakuto-R mission crashed into the Moon’s surface during the lander’s descent from orbit in April 2023.


In its analysis, released in May last year, the lunar exploration firm explained that the onboard software had incorrectly estimated the altitude was zero — ie, already landed — while the lander was still 5km away from the surface. A contributing factor to the crash was an earlier decision to change the landing site after critical design had already been completed.


As such, Ispace had pledged to update its software to improve the accuracy of landing for future missions, although the same lander design will be used for the second mission.



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