SpaceX Launches Multi-Pronged Mission, Including Israeli Lunar Lander

Gwen Vasquez
February 22, 2019

The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface.

Meanwhile, Beresheet, the Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite, and the primary payload, Nusantara Saru, pushed on to orbit.

So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

The Beresheet - Hebrew for "in the beginning" - will take around eight weeks to complete its mission.

Beresheet was created by SpaceIL, an Israel-based nonprofit, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel's largest aerospace company.

Visit The Planetary Society's Beresheet mission page for information won't find anywhere else.

Aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the spacecraft will orbit the Earth after detaching from the launcher, and land on the moon around April 11.

Bad weather threatened the recovery of the first-stage booster, but after 8-and-a-half minutes following launch, the booster successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Combined with Musk's apparent belief that B1048 - having just experienced what he described as the "highest reentry heating to date" - could be ready to launch again as few as 40-70 days from now, this successful launch and landing of a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster (the second time a SpaceX rocket as flown for the third time) suggests that the Block 5 upgrade continues to operate nominally.

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The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the United States and Soviets.

But as the competition wore on, it became apparent that none of the companies were going to be able to meet the deadline to land on the moon, and so Google ultimately scrapped the competition in March 2018.

SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening. Two minutes after it separates from the rocket, Beresheet will communicate for the first time with the mission's control center in Yehud, Israel.

The modern day space race has also seen China land a rover on the far side of the moon. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation.

Beresheet will stay on the moon until someday, perhaps, Israeli astronauts can retrieve it.

Following liftoff, SpaceX recovered the first-stage booster, which flew twice a year ago.

The spacecraft is also equipped with the ability to "hop" short distances on the moon, and engineers say they're confident it carries the fuel to do so.

Nusantara Satu is a 4,100-kilogram communications satellite equipped with C- and Ku-band transponders, mainly for broadband connectivity.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

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