Friday, July 13, 2018

Israeli Company Eyes Moon Landing in Early 2019

SpaceIL’s spacecraft at a clean room. Photo Credit: SpaceIL.

Israel’s non-profit SpaceIL has unveiled its plan to land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon in early 2019. The company announced that the mission would be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket in December 2018.

SpaceIL participated in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which offered $20 million for landing on the Moon. However, despite the fact that the contest expired in March 2018, with the prize for lunar landing unclaimed, some participants, including SpaceIL, decided to continue their efforts to send a spacecraft to the Moon.

The new plan was presented by SpaceIL on Tuesday, July 10 during a press conference at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel. The mission was introduced as a joint SpaceIL-IAI project and the company leaders emphasized its importance for the country.

“After eight challenging years, I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon,” said Morris Kahn, SpaceIL President. “The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride. It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world’s space map.”

The plane envisions launching a car-sized lander atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster as a secondary payload. Liftoff will be conducted from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. After separation from the rocket at an altitude of about 37,282 miles (60,000 kilometers), it will commence its two-month long journey to the Moon. Lunar landing is scheduled for February 13, 2019.

SpaceIL’s lunar spacecraft weighs some 1,322 lbs. (600 kilograms) and has dimensions of 4.9 by 6.5 feet (1.5 by 2 meters). If the mission succeeds, it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the Moon.

The spacecraft is planned to carry an Israeli flag to the Moon and is expected to take photos as well as video of the landing site. It will also conduct scientific research focused on measuring the moon’s magnetic field.

SpaceIL’s project to develop a lunar lander dates back to 2013. The construction of the spacecraft started in 2017 and so far it has passed numerous tests, including the test of the landing sensor in June 2018. Further examination of the spacecraft is scheduled in order to fully prepare it for its launch in December.

“SpaceIL, in collaboration with IAI, is embarking on the final leg of its complex mission to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. In the coming months the spacecraft will undergo a series of intensive checks and tests at IAI, to prove that it will withstand the launch, flight and landing conditions,” said Ido Anteby, SpaceIL CEO.

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