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SpaceX signs up startup seeking to explore the moon

A lunar-exploration company needs some help with its moon mission.

The second of the two missions will bring a lander onto the surface of the moon, where it'll deploy two rovers.

SpaceX has signed up another Japanese customer for launches on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. This time it's a lunar-exploration startup.

Ispace, based in Tokyo, has contracted Elon Musk's company to launch its lunar equipment on Falcon 9 rockets in 2020 and 2021. The first mission will put a lunar lander in orbit around the moon, and the second will bring a lander onto the surface of the moon, where it'll deploy two rovers to collect data.

"We share the vision with SpaceX of enabling humans to live in space, so we're very glad they will join us in this first step of our journey," Takeshi Hakamada, Ispace's CEO, said Wednesday in a statement.

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Ispace, which has 65 employees based in Japan, Luxembourg and the US, wants "to extend human presence beyond Earth."

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's COO, said SpaceX is "looking forward to delivering their innovative spacecraft to the moon."

Last week, Musk announced that the company's first paying passenger for a trip to the moon would be Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.