Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts-off with three payloads

Pablo Tucker
February 23, 2019

Israel's prior experience in space has been tinged with tragedy: The country's first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, died in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and an Israeli-made satellite that was set to go into orbit in 2016 aboard a SpaceX rocket blew up during a failed launch test. ARSP.B1) and SpaceIL reported that the spacecraft was in an elliptical orbit en-route to the moon, where it will touch down seven weeks from now on April 11.

The company pulled off the crowd-pleasing stunt of landing the booster back on SpaceX's "Of course I still love you" drone ship less than nine minutes after lift-off.

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

If successful, Israel won't just become the first nation to launch a private mission to the moon, it will also become the fourth country to ever reach the lunar surface.

Beresheet, the Hebrew word for "in the beginning", was designed by the nonprofit SpaceIL, a team of engineers who began the project for the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which challenged participants to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

The US Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972. The $100 million Beresheet mission couldn't afford its own rocket - even a little one - so the organizers opted for a ride share. 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 USA government customers. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Thursday at 8:45 p.m. local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Winetraub pointed out that the moon and the earth had to be in sync before the rocket could launch, adding, "The moon is coming around, and we're doing our own orbit, and we need to synchronize everything". More recently, China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft reached lunar orbit a few days after launch. This is what makes NASA's offer to track the spacecraft with its Deep Space Network and lunar orbiters so valuable.

SpaceIL's mission for the lander is to beam back photos and video, and to measure the magnetosphere.

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

Following liftoff, SpaceX recovered the first-stage booster, which flew twice a year ago. The successful recovery made it the booster's third successful launch.

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