SpaceX rocket launched carrying Israel's first lunar lander

Christopher Davidson
February 23, 2019

The Falcon 9 rocket used for the launch was flown by SpaceX in two previous missions.

A communications satellite for Indonesia was the main cargo aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, which illuminated the sky as it took flight.

Beresheet will spend the next couple of months orbiting the Earth and then letting the moon's gravity pull it into the lunar orbit.

The craft has been placed in Earth orbit, from where it will use its own engine to undertake a seven-week trip to reach the Moon; the Moon landing is scheduled for seven weeks' time, on April 11. The mission, which has a cost of 100 million dollars, will be led by a non-profit organization named SpaceIL, which has designed and built a 1,300-pound spacecraft called " Beresheet ".

Israel seeks to become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russian Federation, the United States, and China.

During its descent, the spacecraft will measure the Moon's magnetic field, potentially revealing new details about iron core deep below, reports The New York Times.

Other partners are IAI, Israel's space agency its Ministry of Science and Technology.

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"Israel is a very small country, as small as New Jersey, and we're shooting for the moon, SpaceIL manager of the Beresheet program Yigal Harel said".

While most rocket launches carry one payload, "ride-sharing" and secondary loads are becoming far more common in the industry. The proportion of flight-proven to new booster launches is likely to continue to grow in 2019, ultimately reaching a point where new boosters are limited to inaugural hardware debuts or specific contractual requests from conservative United States government customers. Visit The Planetary Society's Beresheet mission page for information won't find anywhere else.

On Thursday night, the nation came a step closer to that goal with the launch of the Beresheet spacecraft - meaning "Genesis" in Hebrew - which blasted into space on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The lander also has retroreflectors installed by NASA that can bounce back lasers beamed from Earth to get an accurate measurement of the distance between our planet and its natural satellite.

The Soviet Union was the first to put a spacecraft on the moon, Luna 2, in 1959. SpaceIL will share data with NASA and other space agencies.

The spacecraft will also plop the Israeli flag on the lunar surface and take some snaps before the mission ends two days later.

SpaceX released photos from the launch shortly after it happened.

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the booster could fly again as early as April in support of Crew Dragon's in-flight abort mission, although his implication that that test will occur in April directly contradicts a recent NASA schedule update that pegged the test no earlier than (NET) June 2019.

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