A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel's first lunar lander. If all goes well, touchdown would be April 11.
Prior to liftoff, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and SpaceIL prime donor Morris Kahn spoke to a crowd at SpaceIL's mission control center at Israel Aerospace Industries, where a small crowd turned out to see the country's first Moon mission take flight.
It will take two months for Beresheet to reach the Mare Serenitatis on the Moon's northern hemisphere, where it will measure lunar magnetic anomalies and give the data to NASA once collected.
Also piggybacking on the flight will be a US Air Force experiment called Air Force Research Laboratory S5 - a microsatellite that's created to detect objects that orbit Earth near a region called geostationary orbit (which is about 22,300 miles away from the planet's surface).
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. While most Falcon 9 missions to geostationary transfer orbit carry just one satellite at a time, PSN sought co-passengers in order to lower the cost of launching its Nusantara Satu satellite, formerly known as PSN-6.
SpaceX is targeting Thursday, February 21 for launch of the Nusantara Satu satellite from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
It will eventually be captured by the moon's gravity where it will enter a lunar orbit.
Israel aims to land on the moon after hitching a ride with SpaceX.
In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets.
So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.
The landing sequence is set to take around 15 minutes and will monitored by a joint group of scientists and engineers from the Israel Space Agency (ISA), the Weizmann Institute of Science, and NASA. They were deployed shortly after, at 44 minutes after launch. Once landed, Beresheet's mission will be to transmit photo and videos of the surface, as well as to conduct scientific measurements.
Following liftoff, SpaceX recovered the first-stage booster, which flew twice a year ago.
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