SpaceIL to launch unmanned Moon probe in December

11 Juillet, 2018, 01:25 | Auteur: Therese Cote

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including USA casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies.

This illustration imagines what the spacecraft would look like on the moon.

The SpaceIL non-profit organization, which has been developing an unmanned spacecraft for landing on the Moon, today announced at a press conference that it would conducting the launch in December 2018. The 585 kilogram (1,289 pound) landing craft will piggyback on a SpaceX Falcon rocket to enter Earth's orbit, then slingshot around the planet several times to reach the moon.

SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries have raised $88 million (£$66 million, AU$118 million) primarily from private donors to fund the project over the past eight years.

The entire endeavour began roughly seven years ago when SpaceIL joined a Google technology contest to land a small, unmanned probed on the moon.

This Israeli spacecraft is expected to land on the moon in early 2019.

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It is about 2m (6.6ft) in diameter and 1.5m high, and will weigh only 585kg (1,300lb) at launch.

Initially, this plan was part of a competition that Google set up called the Lunar XPrize.

The spacecraft is a "hopper", which will land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500m away, as required by the XPrize.

If successful, SpaceIL's mission will make Israel the fourth country in the world to "soft land" a probe on the surface of the Moon - after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China. Kahn said it would be "a tremendous achievement".

The project began when young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - chose to build a spacecraft and take part in the Lunar Xprize competition sponsored by Google, which originally included a $20 million prize for the first group of contestants to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

The aim of the mission is not only to put an Israeli spacecraft on the moon, but to inspire a future generation of Israelis to pursue careers in math, science and engineering, said Joseph Weiss, IAI's president and chief executive.

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