A unique spacecraft slated to launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next month completed the first leg of its quarter-million-mile journey this week when it traveled from Israel to Florida.
The final destination for the SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries spacecraft: the lunar surface.
Shipped in a temperature-controlled container, the 400-pound lander (1,300 pounds fully fueled) was flown Friday from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to Orlando International Airport. It will be driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for testing and final integration before the mid-February liftoff from Launch Complex 40.
The spacecraft, named “Beresheet” which means “in the beginning” in Hebrew, will fly as a secondary payload to the Nusantara Satu mission, a larger communications spacecraft that SpaceX will deliver to a geostationary orbit. Indonesian operator Pasifik Satelit Nusantara calls it the country’s “first high-throughput satellite.”
Israel’s first lunar lander is loaded into a Boeing 747 at Ben Gurion Airport before its flight to Orlando International Airport on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo: Eliran Avital / SpaceIL / Israel Aerospace Industries)
Built by SSL in California, the primary payload is expected to operate on orbit for 15 years and weighs 10,400 pounds.
As Nusantara Satu finesses its orbit around Earth, Beresheet will kick off a two-month journey to the moon that should result in an autonomous mid-April landing. Once there, it will capture photos of the landing site and take magnetic measurements for a joint Weizmann Institute – NASA experiment.
If successful, it will mark the first interplanetary mission for a Falcon 9 rocket as well as Israel’s first landing on the lunar surface.
Additional details about the mission – Falcon 9 booster number, whether or not there will be a landing attempt, and exact launch time – have not yet been released by SpaceX. The company is still prioritizing its first uncrewed demonstration flight of Crew Dragon from Kennedy Space Center, which is tentatively on the Eastern Range’s schedule for early February.
A rendering of the SpaceIL / Israel Aerospace Industries lunar lander, also known as “Beresheet.” (Photo: SpaceIL / Israel Aerospace Industries)
Delta IV Heavy launches national security mission from California
Powered by 2.1 million pounds of thrust, a three-core United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket blasted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday and successfully delivered a secretive national defense spacecraft to orbit.
Space Launch Complex 6 hosted the 11:10 a.m. Pacific time launch for the National Reconnaissance Office, which typically does not release specifics about its payloads. Labeled NROL-71, it marked the first launch of the year for ULA, though it was originally delayed from December.
The Colorado-headquartered company now turns its attention to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it is expected to launch an Air Force communications satellite on a single-core Delta IV rocket no earlier than March 13. It will be the 10th launch of a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, also known as WGS-10.
Contact Emre Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the NROL-71 payload on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Photo: United Launch Alliance)