Israeli company eyes Moon landing in early 2019
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 July 10, 2018, during a press conference at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel. The mission was introduced as a joint SpaceIL-IAI project and 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. After separation from the rocket at an altitude of about 37,282 miles (60,000 kilometers), it is expected to commence a two-month long journey to the Moon. Landing is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2019.
SpaceIL’s lunar spacecraft weighs some 1,322 pounds (600 kilograms) and has dimensions of 4.9 by 6.5 feet (1.5 by 2 meters). If the mission succeeds, it would be the smallest spacecraft to land on the Moon.
The spacecraft is planned to carry an Israeli flag to the Moon and take photos as well as video of the landing site. It would 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 examinations of the spacecraft are 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,” said Ido Anteby, SpaceIL CEO. “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.”
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