Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX Just Launched Israel's Lunar Lander off to the Moon

SpaceX Just Launched Israel's Lunar Lander off to the Moon

A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched an Israeli moon lander along with an Indonesian communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida tonight (Feb. 21).

"Successful deployment of the SpaceIL lunar lander confirmed, starting the spacecraft's two-month voyage to the Moon", SpaceX confirmed on Twitter, some 35 minutes after liftoff.

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The $100 million mission was designed and built by SpaceIL, a nonprofit based in Israel, and will take until early April to reach the moon.

The third payload is the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 experimental satellite.

For this launch, SpaceX plans to reuse a rocket booster that's already flown twice. Built by Blue Canyon Technologies, S5 will carry out a one-year mission aimed at demonstrating small-satellite capabilities in GEO for the US military.

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Lift off took place at 8:45 p.m. ET, at the beginning of the 32-minute launch window.

This marked the third landing for the same booster, which was previously used last year to launch a set of Iridium NEXT satellites and Argentina's SAOCOM 1A satellite.

Just minutes after blastoff, the Falcon 9's nine-engine suborbital main-stage booster separated from the upper stage, flew back to Earth and landed safely on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean more than 300 miles (483 km) off the Florida coast. Engineers say they won't make a decision until later in the mission.

Missions as complex as a moon landing have previously been the purview of only large and well-funded space agencies, but the growth of the private space industry and the development of shared payload technologies has opened up new opportunities for smaller, privately funded operations. 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 U.S. government customers.

The Beresheet mission originally was part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition and even made the final cut before the contest ended a year ago without a victor. It will also be the first non-governmental spacecraft to reach the moon.

"Nusantara Satu is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite that will serve to improve internet connectivity in the region", SpaceX officials said in a statement. While Musk has cornered the market on commercial rocket launches, SpaceIL and IAI are hoping to find a niche in affordable moon landings, so space agencies or, one day, private individuals or organizations, could send cameras and research equipment to the moon for their own purposes.

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