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Monday, 26 July 2021

Israel’s Helios Signs Agreement with iSpace to Produce Oxygen on the Moon


The Israeli company Helios, which develops technology for extracting oxygen from the lunar soil, signed the first Israeli-Japanese agreement for technological cooperation on July 19. Helios, with the support of the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, will be integrated into the mission to the moon of the Japanese company ispace. As part of the mission, the Israeli company will conduct a demonstration of technology for extracting oxygen and metal from the lunar regolith.

The signing ceremony was held at the Japanese Embassy in Israel with the participation of Mizushima Koichi, Ambassador of Japan, Mrs. Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Minister of Innovation in Science and Technology, Avi Blasberger, Head of the Israel Space Agency, Jonathan Geifman, CEO of Helios, and Takashi Hakamada, CEO ispace who joined video call from Japan.

Oxygen is one of the most significant and heavy components in space flight and reaches up to 70% of the weight of the rocket at launch. Oxygen is needed by astronauts to ensure life systems on the moon in addition to the oxygen required for the spacecraft’s fuel to ensure the ability to return to Earth. For example the SpaceX spacecraft which was recently chosen by NASA to be the means of transport that will take astronauts to the moon, is expected to consume hundreds of tons of oxygen to refuel in space. The good news is that about 40% of the ground mass on the moon is made of oxygen that can be produced on the spot, without the need to fly it from Earth using the technology developed in Israel by the Helios company.

According to Jonathan Geifman, founder and CEO of Helios, an independent producer of oxygen on the surface of the moon is the key to build infrastructure viable on the moon, and to carry out space missions are long and complex, while reducing dependence on the delivery of raw materials from the earth. For costs of launching from Earth to the moon are enormous and impossible For medium-to-long-term inclusion (hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram). The international cooperation between the companies will enable a technological breakthrough and the first ever demonstration of resource-producing technology on the moon in general and oxygen and metals in particular. 

According to the plan, Helios will be integrated into ispace’s second flight to the moon, which is expected to take place at the end of 2023, Helios’ system will be called Lunar Extractor-1. During its stay on the moon, the Israeli company will operate a system that will melt sand, and perform electrolysis in it, which will decompose the minerals and oxides that make it up into oxygen and metals. Oxygen production will be measured in real time to improve the system, and the metallic by-product, the system will be molded – which will create the first man-made item on the moon in history.

According to Takashi Hakamada, founder and CEO of ispace, the production of raw materials on the moon will propel the lunar industry, which will ultimately have a positive impact on the planet’s sustainability.

According to Avi Blasberger, Director of the Israel Space Agency, “Returning to the moon and establishing a permanent residence on it requires cooperation between countries and companies. In our opinion, returning to the moon will create significant business opportunities in the global space industry and Helios and ISPACE companies are examples of companies that will lead and be a key factor in this trend. The Israel Space Agency works to support and promote Israeli space companies.

ispace, which operates in Japan, Europe and the United States, is expected to launch the first mission to the moon as early as next year and will include projects and organizations from Japan, Dubai and Canada. The vehicle is currently under construction in Germany.

Helios has offices in Tzur Yigal, Israel and Orlando in Florida. The development was carried out with the assistance of the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Energy, the Innovation Authority and private investors. Accompanying the company include William Larsson, former director of NASA’s Space Resource Production Project, Professor Bartil Anderson, former Chief Scientist of Europe, and Yoav Landsman, senior systems engineer and deputy spacecraft mission at Genesis.

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