WASHINGTON — As Japanese company ispace prepares to land on the moon for the first time, its stock is taking off on a Japanese exchange.
The Tokyo-based company announced April 14 that it had lowered its HAKUTO-R M1 lander into its final orbit around the moon before landing. The spacecraft, which arrived at the moon March 21 in an orbit ranging between 100 and 6,000 kilometers, has now circularized that orbit at 100 kilometers.
That orbit is the eighth of 10 milestones that ispace set for the mission, starting with preparations for its December 2022 launch. The ninth milestone is the landing itself, followed by “steady state” post-landing operations.
The announcement that the lander was now in its final orbit came two days after the company set a date for the landing: April 25 at approximately 12:40 p.m. Eastern. That landing is scheduled for the end of an hour-long descent that starts with a braking burn by the lander’s main engine.
The company said that it has backup landing opportunities on April 26, May 1 and May 3, but did not give specific times for those later dates.
“What we have accomplished so far is already a great achievement, and we are already applying lessons learned from this flight to our future missions,” Takeshi Hakamada, founder and chief executive of ispace, said in an April 12 statement. “The stage is set. I am looking forward to witnessing this historic day, marking the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions.”
The announcements come as ispace’s stock started trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Growth Market, an exchanged reserved for smaller, higher-risk companies. The company announced plans to go public on the exchange March 8.
Shares in ispace, priced at 254 yen ($1.91) per share, skyrocketed in trading April 13, closing at 1,201 yen. The stock closed April 14 at 1,501 yen, giving the company a market cap of 120.7 billion yen ($909.8 million).
The company did not disclose how much it raised in the initial public offering. In earlier filings, ispace said it would sell about 24.7 million shares, which it later raised to 26.5 million shares, with an option to sell an additional 1.24 million shares.
As part of the process of going public, ispace released financial details showing increased sales but also growing losses. The company reported 823 million yen in sales through the first three quarters of the fiscal year that ended March 31, compared to 674 million yen in the fiscal year that ended in March 2022.
However, ispace reported a loss of 9.72 billion yen in the first three quarters of the most recent fiscal year, versus a a loss of 4.06 billion yen in the fiscal year that ended in March 2022. The company reported net assets of negative 554 million yen as of the third quarter of its most recent fiscal year.