Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Israeli unmanned spacecraft to land on Moon in 2019

Israeli unmanned spacecraft to land on Moon in 2019

At a historic press conference Tuesday, at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel, nonprofit SpaceIL and IAI announced a lunar mission to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., this December, and land on the moon on February 13, 2019.

The entire journey, from launch to landing, will last approximately two months.

The lunar landing would make Israel the fourth country - after Russian Federation, the United States and China - to put a craft on the surface of the moon.

The probe will reportedly use one of Elon Musk's Falcon 9 rockets to launch, and will be the smallest craft to ever land on the moon.

SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by a group of engineers with a budget of about $90 million and they had to sacrifice size and operational capabilities for more efficient travel.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli company involved in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which carried a £15million ($20million) victory prize until it was scrapped in March 2018 due to contestants' missed deadlines.

It might be a privately funded mission, but SpaceIL could be a national effort looking to raise interest in space travel throughout Israel. The plan is for the lunar spacecraft to land on the moon on February 13, 2019, after a two-month journey from Earth. Over the years, additional partners from the private sector, government companies and academia have joined, including Weizmann Institute of Science; Israel Space Agency; the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space; Bezeq and others.

But SpaceIL has continued to work on its moon mission. The spacecraft, which weighs only about 600 kilograms, is considered the smallest to land on the moon.

The SpaceIL craft is 1.5 meters (five feet) high and two meters in diameter, able to reach a maximum speed of more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) per second. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December, the team said at a press conference at an IAI facility outside Tel Aviv.

The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome. However, the competition ended with no victor at the end of March, but the competition for the $30 million in cash prize continues, even without the cash.

South African-born Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, who supplied funding for the project, said that he hoped that this mission would create the sort of enthusiasm that greeted the Apollo missions in the United States.

Like this: