SpaceX now targeting Dec. 11 for launch of Japanese moon lander after delays

rocket launching on top of orange flame with steam coming underneath. blue sky in background
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the company's Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station on Nov. 26, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is now targeting Sunday (Dec. 11) for the launch of a private Japanese moon lander after a series of delays.

If all goes according to plan, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Tokyo-based company ispace's Hakuto-R lander toward the moon on Sunday at 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 GMT), SpaceX announced today (opens in new tab). Sunday will be a big day for space fans: NASA's Orion capsule is scheduled to return to Earth that afternoon, wrapping up the agency's Artemis 1 moon mission.

The coming SpaceX flight, which will kick off ispace's Mission 1, was originally supposed to get off the ground last month. It has been pushed back several times, however, so SpaceX could perform additional checks on the Falcon 9.

SpaceX has not shared what those checks investigated. The company said in today's update that the Falcon 9 and the Hakuto-R lander, which is also carrying a small United Arab Emirates moon rover, are both "looking good for launch" no earlier than Sunday.

In photos: See the evolution of SpaceX rockets

Mission 1 isn't the only Falcon 9 flight to be pushed back recently. SpaceflightNow's launch calendar (opens in new tab) also shows delays for SpaceX's first launch of OneWeb internet satellites; the Group 4-37 batch of SpaceX's Starlink broadband spacecraft; a defense launch for the U.S. Space Development Agency; and the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite, a joint effort of NASA and the French space agency.

The most recent Falcon 9 mission was a cargo Dragon launch to the International Space Station on Nov. 26. SpaceX also conducted several other Falcon 9 launches and a single mission with a Falcon Heavy (which uses Falcon 9 first stages) in the month of November. 

A long-exposure photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching the Hotbird 13F satellite for Eutelsat on Oct. 15, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 is the backbone of SpaceX's launch program and of the ever-growing Starlink megaconstellation, which consists of more than 3,200 active satellites at the moment.

The rocket is used widely across the space industry; it has lofted astronauts and deep-space probes for NASA and classified defense satellites for the U.S. military, for example.

The Falcon 9 has launched 186 times to date (opens in new tab) and is known for its high flight cadence and reliability. The rocket's first stage is reusable, and some boosters have now launched more than a dozen times.

With all of this history, heritage and success, it's a bit odd to see a series of delays with the Falcon 9. That said, Blue Origin suffered a failure in September during an uncrewed launch of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, which had enjoyed a long string of successes up to that point. That incident serves as a reminder that spaceflight is still hard, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace