Sunday, 26 May, 2019

SpaceX launches the first private moon lander on Israel's behalf

SpaceX launches moon lander lands booster despite tough conditions WATCH: Israeli Pride Swells as Moon Mission Successfully Lifts Off
Sandra Phillips | 22 February, 2019, 20:12

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

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Thursday at 8:45 pm local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "After the launch, our crew will take control of Beresheet and begin the journey to the moon!".

Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL's Beresheet lander separated 33 minutes after liftoff.

Beresheet, about the size of a dishwasher, was one of three payloads carried aloft by the Falcon 9, part of the private rocket fleet of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's California-based company SpaceX.

The company again successfully recovered the first stage of the rocket by landing it on the barge "Of Course I Still Love You" floating in the Atlantic Ocean. "The superpowers who managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding", IAI said in an earlier statement. It will also be the first non-governmental spacecraft to reach the moon.

The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

Just minutes after blasting off, the Falcon 9's nine-engine suborbital main-stage booster rocket could be seen in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon.

"Only after we will be sure that everything is OK, we will jump - make the lunar-capture maneuver, what we call it - and jump to the moon", Yigal Harel, the head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program, said during Wednesday's news conference.

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SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award.

Last month, China became the first country to land on the far side of the moon.

Falcon 9 will drop off the lander at about 60,000km. Launching the refurbished booster for a third time could net SpaceX millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars.

SpaceIL's mission for the lander is to beam back photos and video, and to measure the magnetosphere.

Beresheet's lengthy stay in Earth orbit may seem surprising.

"It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic - it's something they can understand", SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said during Wednesday's briefing. 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 Satru and S5 will head to geosynchronous orbit before parting ways, while Beresheet conducts a series of phasing loops to raise its orbit until the spacecraft is captured by lunar gravity.

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