Friday, 22 March, 2019

SpaceX Falcon 9 aces launch and landing after "most challenging reentry" yet

An artistic image of SpaceIL's Beresheet lander on the moon's surface An artistic image of SpaceIL's Beresheet lander on the moon's surface
Cary Marshall | 22 February, 2019, 06:23

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel's first spacecraft created to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019. It's set to be the smallest spacecraft to ever land on the Moon. Weighing 1,322 pounds (600 kg), it's also the first spacecraft from an Israeli entity and the first privately-funded spacecraft to reach the lunar surface.

The Falcon 9 rocket will thrust Beresheet into a "long and complex" Earth orbit where it will spend roughly five weeks gradually widening its orbit until it is close enough to enter the moon's gravitational field. Also onboard the Falcon 9 is the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) S5 spacecraft developed and integrated by Blue Canyon Technologies, which will carry out a one-year mission. According to SpaceX, Falcon 9 B1048's third successful launch and landing faced the Block 5 booster with "some of the most challenging reentry conditions to date". 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.

Beresheet lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:45 time a.m. Israel time (8:45 p.m. Thursday EST), catching a ride on one of Elon Musk's SpaceX commercial space launches.

SpaceX successfully landed its first rocket booster in April 2016 and has since pulled off a series of successful rocket landing and launches used recycled rocket boosters. Once it lands, the probe will conduct various experiments on the Moon's surface, testing its magnetism and geology.

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The booster from this mission is scheduled to be redeployed in April.

SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the USA -based Arch Mission Foundation. The satellite is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite. But the group behind SpaceIL made a decision to continue its mission, turning to donors to help fund the barebones operation.

"This is the beginning of Israel's story in deep space. whether this succeeds or fails", SpaceIL president and billionaire high-tech developer Morris Kahn, who invested $US44 million of his own money into the Beresheet project, said.

The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets.

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