The lunar mission is an achievement for a space launch company
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The lunar mission is an achievement for a space launch company

GWEN MURANAK / Rafu Shimpo
Chris Maruyama at Scorpius Space Launch Company (SSLC) in Torrance. The company built the fuel tank that launched the Odysseus lunar lander to the moon in February.

By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU SENIOR EDITOR

Welcome to the moon.

After a few tense moments, the Odysseus lunar lander landed safely on the moon on February 22. It was the first time in 50 years that an American spacecraft had touched down on the lunar surface.

In Torrance, at the offices of Scorpius Space Launch Company (SSLC), cheers and celebrations rang out over a historic event—the first safe landing of a commercial spacecraft on the Moon.

In an interview for Rafu Shimpo, Chris Maruyama, Composite Operations Manager at Scorpius, said proudly: “This is definitely one of the highlights of my life and career aspirations.”

In an industrial building in Torrance, the Scorpius team is a blend of creative enthusiasm, entrepreneurship and real engineering experience that defines the growing commercial space industry. Maruyama started at the company in graphic design and now builds and manufactures components. A UCLA graduate, his work is multifaceted, spanning machining, manufacturing and design.

His father, Takashi Maruyama, was a distinguished physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Image Source: COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR
Artist’s concept of Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander on the lunar surface.

Scorpius built all-composite propulsion tanks that were used to propel a lander the size of a telephone booth to the moon. Developed by Intuitive Machines, Odysseus was intended to assess the environment of the lunar south pole ahead of NASA’s plans to return a crew of astronauts to the moon in late 2026.

From Tang to cell phones to solar panels, space exploration has long driven innovation, and Scorpio is a testament to that.

“Space exploration has always been about pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and capabilities,” said Markus Rufer, President and CEO of Scorpius. “We are a prime example of how the inventions and innovations that result from this endeavor not only benefit astronauts, but also improve our quality of life here on Earth.

“While our PRESSURMAXX linerless carbon fiber composite reservoirs will likely end up on the moon, they have already been adopted by the medical field for cryoablation applications to treat cardiac arrhythmias and in mobile respiratory oxygen supplementation devices.”

Maruyama gave a tour of the Scorpius facility, where the tanks are built from lightweight composite materials. A photo of a pickup truck sitting on top shows the strength and durability of the tanks, showing how the flexible and strong material is ideal for the harsh conditions of space.

“Everything in aviation has to be lighter. Our tanks have to survive cryogenic temperatures, very low temperatures. So the tanks are important. The other thing is that everything is carbon fiber—no metals combined in it,” he explained. “The fibers are strong… If you pull them like that, they stretch. That allows us to create different shapes.

Scorpius is a dream job, Maruyama said, standing in a machine shop filled with tools. “I always wanted to build things and work with my hands. Scorpius gave me the opportunity and taught me how to make things, and I taught myself how to do some things on YouTube. There are never dull days here—we’re always doing something different, finding different solutions.”

The race to explore the Moon has intensified in recent years, with countries like China, Brazil, Japan and India making progress in lunar exploration. Scorpius has delivered tanks for two more Intuitive launches, with the next one tentatively scheduled for November.

“Now the lander is on the moon … Something I created will be there for a long, long time. It’s really exciting,” Maruyama said.