SpaceX delays launch of Japanese moon lander again, citing rocket issues

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with the private Japanese Hakuto-R moon lander stands on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket was supposed to launch on Dec. 1, 2022, but SpaceX is standing down to perform more checks on the rocket.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with the private Japanese Hakuto-R moon lander stands on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket was supposed to launch on Dec. 1, 2022, but SpaceX is standing down to perform more checks on the rocket. (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

SpaceX just stood down again from the launch of a Japanese moon lander.

The Hakuto-R lander, which was built by Tokyo-based company ispace, and NASA's Lunar Flashlight cubesat were scheduled to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday (Dec. 1) at 3:37 a.m. EST (0837 GMT). But that's no longer the plan.

"After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, we're standing down from tomorrow's launch of @ispace_inc's HAKUTO-R Mission 1; a new target launch date will be shared once confirmed," SpaceX announced via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Wednesday evening.

Related: Japanese ispace lander to carry UAE moon rover to lunar surface in 2022 

It was the second such delay for the mission: It was originally supposed to launch early Wednesday (Nov. 30), but SpaceX pushed things back a day "to allow for additional pre-flight checkouts."

The Falcon 9 slated to launch ispace's Mission 1 is a veteran of four previous flights. Its first stage previously helped loft the SES-22 communications satellite this past June and three batches of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites, company representatives wrote in a description of the upcoming moon mission (opens in new tab).

Artist's impression of the Hakuto-R lander on the moon.

Artist's impression of ispace's Hakuto-R lander on the moon. (Image credit: ispace)

Mission 1 is a test flight for ispace, which wants to see how Hakuto-R performs in deep space and on the lunar surface. 

After liftoff, the lander will embark on a roughly four-month journey to the moon. If Hakuto-R aces its touchdown on Earth's nearest neighbor, it will make history; to date, only the space agencies of the United States, China and the Soviet Union have achieved soft landings on the lunar surface.

A successful touchdown will also allow the United Arab Emirates to make some history of its own; the nation's first moon rover, a 22-pound (10 kilograms) robot named Rashid, will deploy from Hakuto-R and study its environs for about 14 Earth days, if all goes according to plan.

An artist's depiction of the UAE's planned moon rover seen on the lunar surface. (Image credit: MBRSC)

NASA has a stake in the upcoming flight as well. The agency's briefcase-sized Lunar Flashlight is designed to hunt for water ice near the moon's south pole, where NASA plans to build a moon base via its Artemis program.

The cubesat will do its work from lunar orbit, which it will reach after a roughly three-month journey through deep space.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab)

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.