Beresheet Lunar Lander
Beresheet (Hebrew for "Genesis") Lunar Lander of SpaceIL, Israel
SpaceIL's mission to the moon began as part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition. SpaceIL was the only Israeli team that participated in the competition, which originally offered a first prize of $30 million to the privately-funded team that could put a robotic spacecraft on the moon, move the craft 500 meters and have it beam high-definition photos and video back to Earth.
A privately funded Israeli lunar lander originally built for a prize competition is now complete and ready for launch in early 2019. In a 17 December 2018 ceremony at an IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) facility, workers installed the final, symbolic element of the SpaceIL spacecraft: a digital "time capsule" consisting of three discs containing information about the mission and Israel. The 600 kg lander is now complete and ready for shipment to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for launch. 1)
The Beresheet lander will soon be shipped to Florida where it will launch in Q1 2019 as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 mission whose primary payload will be the PSN-6 (PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara-6) communications satellite of a private company in Indonesia.
Some background: From Israel to Florida, to the Moon. "After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft," said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby. "Shipping the spacecraft to the United States is the first stage of a complicated and historic journey to the moon." The task of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project, with educational impact, funded mainly by Morris Kahn, a philanthropist and businessman who took the lead in completing the mission, serving as SpaceIL's president and financing $40 million.2)
The Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s first lunar spacecraft began a historic journey to the moon as the vehicle was transported in a cargo plane from Ben Gurion Airport to Orlando, Florida, was it prepares for launching from SpaceX Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next month.
SpaceIL and IAI recently packed the 180 kg lunar lander into a special temperature-controlled, sterile shipping container, built to protect the spacecraft and ensure it arrives safely at the launch site.
After landing at Orlando International Airport, the Beresheet spacecraft, will then be driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it will be added as a secondary payload by launch service provider Spaceflight. It will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket together with a geostationary communications satellite built by SSL. The launch is targeted for no earlier than mid-February.
"After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft," said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby. "Shipping the spacecraft to the United States is the first stage of a complicated and historic journey to the moon. This is the first of many exciting moments, as we look forward to the forthcoming launch in Cape Canaveral." IAI Director of Logistics Eyal Shitrit said that though IAI has extensive experience in complex shipping projects, "the transporting of Beresheet is a unique challenge since this is a once-in-a-lifetime mission and there is no backup plan – this spacecraft must arrive safely."
In addition to the container holding Beresheet, two more containers will be included in the cargo plane, which itself is temperature controlled. SpaceIL and IAI engineers will accompany the spacecraft on the flight to Florida, and more engineers will join them in Cape Canaveral. Beresheet will undergo final tests before being launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Since the establishment of SpaceIL, the task of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project, with educational impact, funded mainly by Morris Kahn, a philanthropist and businessman who took the lead in completing the mission, serving as SpaceIL's president and financing $40 million.
The process of planning and developing the spacecraft, which includes the intensive work of engineers, scientists and staff, began in 2013 and continued until last year. The spacecraft, which weighs only 600 kg (launch mass), is considered the smallest to land on the moon. It is only 1.5 m wide and will be carrying about 75 percent of its weight. Its maximum speed will exceed 10 km/s (36,000 km/h).
Solar panels, mounted on top of the spacecraft deck, provide power. The lander will carry imagers, a magnetometer, and a laser retroreflector array (LRA), provided by NASA/GSFC (NASA will also provide communications support during the mission), and a time-capsule of cultural and historical Israeli artifacts. The time capsule consists of three discs, each containing hundreds of digital files. The files in the time capsule include details about the spacecraft and the crew building it, Israeli national symbols, including Israel's Declaration of Independence and the Israeli flag, paintings by Israeli children, dictionaries in 27 languages, and information about Israeli scientific and technological advancements.
Once launched, the spacecraft will begin with a long and complex flight. The spacecraft will be deployed from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket when it reaches approximately 60,000 km from Earth's surface and begin orbiting the Earth in elliptic orbits. It will circle Earth, widening its circumference each time, while saving fuel and only starting the engines at the end of each cycle. Then, at the right time, it will leave Earth's gravity and enter the gravity of the moon. After circling the moon a few times, it will begin the landing process, carried out autonomously by the spacecraft's navigation control system. The entire flight, from launch through landing, will take about two months.
The mission: Once the spacecraft, carrying the Israeli flag, lands on the moon in 2019, it will begin taking photos of the landing site. It will also perform measurements of the magnetic field in a scientific experiment carried out in cooperation with the Weizmann Institute and NASA. The data collected from this experiment will be transferred to IAI's control room during the two days following the landing.
Once landed on the moon, however, the mission may only last a few more days. The lander is not designed for the long haul, but instead will demonstrate advances in technology as well as the business model for a privately funded spacecraft landing on another body in the solar system. In this sense, Beresheet will create a second and even more memorable "Moon of Israel."
• February 12, 2019: A 3D engine mount from RUAG Space will be the first 3D printed part on the moon — the lunar lander of the private Israeli company SpaceIL is scheduled for launch on February 18 and the spacecraft will use a 3D printed aluminum structure developed by RUAG Space for its main engine. 4)
- Since 2014, RUAG Space has developed space components based on Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) technology. RUAG Space designed the part and qualified it for space. For the production of the 3D printed structure, RUAG Space contracted U.S. Company MORF3D, a leader in Additive Manufacturing solutions for the Aerospace industry.
- Peter Guggenbach, CEO, RUAG Space, said that the company's 3D part will support landing and lift off of the spacecraft on the moon. With 3D Printing, customers profit from a quicker and more cost-efficiently production. Compared to conventional processes, 3D Printing offers a host of benefits and enables the production of lighter metal or plastic components. Weight reduction is a decisive factor in the space industry, the lighter the satellite, the lower the costs.
• January 20, 2019: A unique spacecraft slated to launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next month completed the first leg of its quarter-million-mile journey this week when it traveled from Israel to Florida. 5)
- Shipped in a temperature-controlled container, the 180 kg lander (600 kg fully fueled) was flown from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to Orlando International Airport. It will be driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for testing and final integration before the mid-February liftoff from Launch Complex 40.
- The spacecraft, named "Beresheet" which means "in the beginning" in Hebrew, will fly as a secondary payload to the Nusantara Satu mission, a larger communications spacecraft that SpaceX will deliver to a geostationary orbit. Indonesian operator Pasifik Satelit Nusantara calls it the country's "first high-throughput satellite."
• November 19, 2018: Jewish Canadian Billionaire Sylvan Adams has donated $5 million to Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL, whose goal is to land the first Israeli-made unmanned spacecraft on the moon. Adams announced the donation Sunday during a tour of the facilities of Israel's largest aerospace company Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., where SpaceIL's spacecraft is currently undergoing advanced testing. Landing an Israeli spaceship on the moon will inspire the children of Israel to pursue science and technology education, Adams said in a statement. 6)
• July 10, 2018: SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization that is working to send the first Israeli spacecraft to the Moon, announced earlier today that the Moon landing is scheduled for February 13, 2019. The spacecraft will be launched in December 2018 as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon rocket. After releasing the other satellites it will be carrying, the rocket will release the Israeli spacecraft at an altitude of 60 thousand kilometers. The spacecraft will continue to orbit Earth in a wide elliptical course, subsequently entering orbit around the Moon. 7)
- The spacecraft's elliptical orbit will gradually grow, until it encounters the Moon's orbit, where it will activate its motors to slow down and enter orbit around the Moon. Missing this precise encounter would result in a 28-day landing delay, until its orbit merges once again with that of the Moon.
- "It is a small and smart spacecraft," said SpaceIL CEO, Ido Anteby. "1.5 meters by 2 meters in size, weighing 600 kilograms at the time of the launch. Most of the weight is fuel – upon landing, the spacecraft's weight will have reached 180 kilograms. The spacecraft will be in touch with several ground stations on Earth and throughout its entire journey, we will maintain radio contact with it."
- For the spacecraft's autonomous landing process, an onboard automatic system will activate rockets before landing to slow it down and ensure a smooth landing. Immediately after landing, the spacecraft will place the Israeli flag on the lunar surface, take pictures and videos. It will complete its mission within two days.
- "Only three countries have landed spacecraft on the moon so far: the U.S., Russia, and China, and all three did it with a huge financial investment in projects that included thousands of engineers," said SpaceIL Chair, Morris Kahn. "We are making history. Accomplishing this will make us very proud – the kind of pride we need in Israel. After our rocket will enter orbit, we will all remember what we were doing the moment Israel landed on the Moon."
- The spacecraft is currently undergoing final testing at the Israel Aerospace Industries. In October it will be sent to the U.S. for assembly onboard the rocket, which will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
• April 5, 2018: Google withdrew the cash prizes in April 2018 when no group was able to meet the contest deadline, which had already been extended from 2017. A few teams, including SpaceIL, pushed on, and despite a brush with bankruptcy at the end of 2017, SpaceIL announced they would be ready to fly at the end of 2018. The launch has since been delayed until the "beginning of 2019," SpaceIL representatives said in response to emailed questions. 8)
• January 31, 2018: The Google Lunar X Prize has come to an unceremonious end. On 23 January, XPrize founder Peter Diamandis and CEO Marcus Shingles announced that the contest's $20 million grand prize—which was to be awarded to the first privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the Moon, navigate 500 m across the lunar surface, and beam back high-definition images—will go unclaimed. None of the five teams remaining in the competition will be able to reach the Moon by the 31 March contest deadline, the prize organizers concluded. 9)
- The announcement came just days after reports surfaced that financial woes led one of the X Prize hopefuls, India-based Team Indus, to scuttle an agreement to launch its lunar lander aboard an Indian Space Research Organization rocket. That development effectively knocked two teams out of prize contention, since the Japan-based team, Hakuto, had previously arranged to send its rover to the Moon aboard Team Indus's lunar lander. The remaining teams vying for the X Prize—the US's Moon Express, Israel's SpaceIL, and the international team Synergy Moon—were already facing delays that rendered a March launch improbable.
- Some teams had indicated they would lobby for a few additional months of time to complete the lunar mission. XPrize had previously granted several such extensions, in all prolonging the contest more than three years beyond the 2014 deadline that was set when the prize was announced in 2007. "However, a collective decision was made last year that we would not extend this competition," the prize's senior director, Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, told Physics Today in an email. "The official end date was going to remain March 31, 2018."
- Failure to launch: XPrize has administered more than a dozen of its signature incentive contests over the past two decades, including competitions to develop fuel-efficient cars, improve understanding of ocean acidification, and teach artificially intelligent machines to deliver TED talks. But the Lunar X Prize was arguably the most ambitious of them all. The only country since the Cold War to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon is China, and its Yutu rover malfunctioned after wheeling less than 120 m in 2013. The prize's $20 million grand prize was, and remains, the largest bounty the foundation has ever offered.
- In addition to the grand prize, XPrize offered $10 million in consolation prizes, including milestone awards to be given for demonstrating landing, imaging, and roving capabilities and other mission-related technological achievements. The foundation doled out $6 million in milestone prizes over the course of the competition, but the grand prize remained beyond the contestants' grasp.
- XPrize officials attribute the teams' difficulties to technological, fundraising, and regulatory challenges. As of last week, two teams, Moon Express and Synergy Moon, were still awaiting development of the rockets that would carry their lunar landers into space. At least two contestants, Team Indus and SpaceIL, had yet to raise the more than $50 million they needed to cover the costs of their respective lunar missions. Only one team, Moon Express, had publicly received approval from its government to send a payload to the Moon.
- Onward and upward: The impending expiration of the Lunar XPrize hasn't derailed the competitors' lunar ambitions. "SpaceIL is committed to landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, regardless of the terms or status of the Lunar X Prize," said Eran Privman, the team's CEO. "We are at the height of our efforts to raise the funds for this project and to prepare for launch."
• A model of the Beresheet spacecraft, initially called Sparrow, was presented at the 66th IAC in October 2015. 10)
• SpaceIL was founded in 2011 to compete in the Google Lunar XPrize, a program that planned to award $30 million to the first privately funded team who could build a spacecraft and land it successfully on the moon. Beyond landing, the spacecraft, or a rover, had to travel a distance of 500 meters or more and beam high-definition imagery of the landing environment to Earth. The Google Lunar XPrize contest deadline ended in 2018 without a winner. Undaunted, SpaceIL forged ahead with the development and construction of the spacecraft, and is now ready to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Launch: Spaceflight launched its first rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) — the missionwas launched on 22 February 2019 (01:45 UTC) aboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 launching from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The primary payload on the mission was a telecommunications satellite, PSN-6 (PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara-6), for the South East Asia region. Built by SSL (Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, CA), a Maxar Technologies company that also procured the launch vehicle. 11) 12)
Deployments occurred at approximately 33 and 44 minutes after liftoff. Falcon-9's first stage for the Nusantara Satu mission previously supported the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018.
Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon-9's first stage on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Spaceflight also managed the launch of the two secondary payloads:
• Beresheet, an Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's lunar lander
• S5, an experimental small satellite of the US Air Force Research Laboratoy (AFRL) with a mass of 180 kg.
Orbits: The spacecraft are headed to two different orbits. Once the Falcon-9 reaches GTO, it will separate SpaceIL's lunar lander with a custom separation system. Beresheet will orbit Earth, gradually increasing its apogee until it can maneuver to be captured by the Moon's gravity. It will travel to the Moon's surface under its own power, a voyage taking nearly two months.
Following Beresheet's deployment, the AFRL spacecraft, built by Blue Canyon Technologies of Boulder, CO, will remain attached to the telecommunications satellite as they continue their journey to Geostationary Orbit (GEO). Before the telecommunications satellite reaches its final GEO position, it will separate the S5 spacecraft which will then turn on and start its mission. S5 is a state-of-the-art 60 kg microsatellite bus for the Space Situational Awareness (S5) mission, led by the Air Force. The payload is provided by ADS (Applied Defense Systems).
SpaceIL's four-legged lunar spacecraft, which was competing in the Google Lunar XPrize, will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the Moon, at only 180 kg. Once it has completed its mission, Beresheet will represent Israel's first spacecraft and the world's first privately funded spacecraft to reach the Moon. Its mission is to transmit photos and video of its new home and conduct scientific measurements. Upon the mission's completion, it will remain as a lunar time capsule commemorating this historic accomplishment.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made the following statement on the launch of Israel's first mission beyond Earth's orbit. 13)
"Congratulations to SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency. This is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon. — In July, I was in Israel and was very impressed with their commitment to expanding their role in the world's space community. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger international partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond. There are terrific opportunities awaiting Israel and all of us in advancing the space frontier."
"This is the type of collaboration that will become more frequent as NASA looks to expand opportunities with a greater variety of partners to continue the exploration of the Moon and Mars," said Steve Clarke, NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. "NASA is proud to work with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and SpaceIL and we look forward to the landing and the science data that will be gained from this important mission."
SpaceIL will rely on the Swedish Space Corporation's network of antennas to communicate navigation commands to the spacecraft and to track its trajectory. Once the spacecraft lands, NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) will ferry data between it and Earth. DSN is a system of global antennas managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, that scientists use to communicate with spacecraft in deep space.
The SpaceIL mission advances a partnership between NASA and ISA as both agencies will share the resulting discoveries with the global scientific community.
"The team's tension level is high, but we're also very, very excited" said Eran Shmidt, deputy manager and head of the ground control team at SpaceIL, the Israeli nonprofit that built the Moon lander Beresheet in partnership with Israeli-government-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries.
The lander will separate first from the rocket, taking the long route to the Moon to save fuel by employing gravitational forces to propel itself. Thus, Beresheet will stay in Earth's orbit for about a month, slowly widening its ellipse until it reaches apogee, or its farthest point from here, at nearly 400,000 km away. The SpaceIL team will need to time Beresheet's apogee precisely to meet up with the Moon in its orbit about Earth. At this point, the navigators can slow the spacecraft to allow it to be captured by the Moon's gravity and thereby pulled into its orbit.
"Once we are captured by the Moon," said Shmidt, "we will orbit around it, perform a few maneuvers for about a week, and then start a 20- to 30-minute autonomous descent."
A few moments of precious science (Ref. 14)
Beresheet is due to touch down between April 11 and 12 in a dark patch of an ancient volcanic field visible from Earth, known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin). NASA's Apollo 17 astronauts landed near this region on Dec. 11, 1972.
Now, Beresheet will have an opportunity to mark a new first in space exploration with its landing. Though the primary goal of its mission is to land safely, the spacecraft will attempt to do science in orbit, during landing, and on the ground. The window of opportunity for research is small, though: just three Earth days maximum after landing that the spacecraft can withstand the crushing heat — 100º Celsius at local noon — of the lunar day (14 Earth days). But every second counts to scientists back on Earth.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), one of the agency's three spacecraft circling and studying the Moon, will analyze the gases released by Beresheet's decent engine as the lander approaches the surface.
"What we're trying to learn is how volatile compounds, such as water or other gases, are transported around the Moon," said John W. Keller, an LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "If we can predict where these compounds will go and where they'll settle, we'll know in what regions of the Moon to look for water and other valuable resources."
Meanwhile, scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles, Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, and from other global organizations will rely on data from Beresheet's magnetometer to study whether Moon rocks contain a history of the magnetic field there.
An old, new instrument
Another experiment on Beresheet will involve a tiny but robust instrument called a Laser Retroreflector Array. Smaller than a computer mouse, this device features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set into a dome-shaped aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming in from any direction back to its source. LRO's laser altimeter, an instrument that measures altitude, will try to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet's retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back. By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet's location within 10 cm.
One day, this simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object's spin rate or position in space.
"It's a fixed marker you may return to it any time," said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the LOLA (Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter) instrument on the LRO.
Laser retroreflectors have already been instrumental to space exploration. Apollo- astronauts left three large reflector panels at various Moon locations 50 years ago. They're still reflecting light today, with their 100 mirrors each, though they're reflecting light all the way back to Earth instead of a close-by orbiter. Using these mirrors, scientists have learned many things about the Moon, particularly that it is moving away from Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/year.
These days, smaller laser reflectors are commonly used to track Earth-orbiting satellites from the ground and have been included on several recent space missions. NASA installed an Italian Space Agency-provided retroreflector on the deck of the InSight lander, which arrived on Mars in November 2018. Though there's no orbiter with a laser instrument at Mars today to shoot light to InSight's reflector, scientists expect that there will be one in the future.
In Beresheet's case, too, the reflector will live on forever, even though Beresheet is expected to stop working within a few days of landing. It may be a simple dome of mirrors, yet Beresheet's reflector may be one of the first flickers of light future explorers undertaking NASA's Moon to Mars exploration will see as they descend to the Moon in the coming decade.
• May 15, 2019: The photo of Figure 10 shows the landing site of the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft on a region of the Moon called Sea of Serenity, or Mare Serenitatis in Latin. On April 11, 2019, SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, attempted to land its spacecraft in this ancient volcanic field on the nearside of the Moon. After a smooth initial descent, Beresheet made a hard landing on the surface. 15)
- As soon as its orbit placed NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site on April 22, 2019, LRO imaged Beresheet's impact site. The LRO Camera (LROC) consists of three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) mounted on the LRO, which has been studying the Moon from orbit for a decade. NAC captured the Beresheet impact photo.
- LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 km) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 m wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.
- From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It's possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4º relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet's speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).
- The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet's descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective.
- There are many clues that we're actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one. This is an important consideration, since the Moon, having no atmosphere, is constantly bombarded by space rocks that leave craters.
- Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 "before" images of the area, spanning a decade, and three "after" images. In all of these images, including one taken 16 days before the landing, we saw only one new feature of the size Beresheet would have created.
- Existing mathematical models helped us estimate the size and shape of the crater that would have formed if an object of Beresheet's mass and velocity struck the surface. We also referenced craters created by similar-size spacecraft (GRAIL, LADEE, Ranger) that have struck the Moon at about the same speed, and we saw that the white tail stretching from the landing halo towards the south is a shape that's consistent with Beresheet's southward descent trajectory and angle of approach.
- For the before image of Figure 12, we used a photo from December 16, 2016. This is because the lighting conditions that day, based on the angle at which the Sun would have illuminated the Moon at that particular time in its orbit, were the most similar to the April 22 image. Because LRO was beyond the horizon during Beresheet's descent and landing, it couldn't capture a photo until its orbit brought it nearby 11 days later. LRO passes over the lunar poles with each revolution. Meanwhile, the Moon rotates on its axis below the spacecraft, allowing LRO to pass over every part of the Moon twice a month (once during lunar night and once during lunar day). LROC may take more images of the landing site when it passes the same area again on May 19.
- Efforts are ongoing to bounce laser pulses from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, also on board LRO, to measure the return from the Laser Retroreflector Array of small corner cube mirrors. This instrument was provided by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and was installed on the top deck of the Beresheet spacecraft. Attempts are ongoing to examine if the retroreflector may have survived the impact.
• April 17, 2019: According to the preliminary investigation of the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet's landing maneuver, it appears that a manual command was entered into the spacecraft's computer that led to a chain reaction in the spacecraft, during which the main engine switched off, which prevented any further activation. 16)
- SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) teams continue to investigate further into the error that resulted in the spacecraft crashing into the Moon in order to understand the full picture of what occurred during the mission. In the coming weeks, final results of the investigation will be released.
- SpaceIL President Mr. Morris Kahn said he was proud of SpaceIL's team of engineers for their wonderful work and dedication, and such cases are an integral part of such a complex and pioneering project. What is important now is to learn the best possible lessons from these mistakes and bravely continue forward. That's the message the company wishes to convey to the people in Israel and the entire Jewish world. This is the spirit of the Beresheet project.
• April 11, 2019: The Jerusalem Post online news site is reporting that, even though the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft did travel and orbit the moon, the final maneuver — the landing — was unable to arrive on the lunar surface. 17)
- As the spacecraft approached the moon, SpaceIL lost contact with Beresheet several times, according to the infosite. The scientists kept hope as the connection was restored; however, just minutes before the spacecraft was supposed to touch down in the northeastern part of the Sea of Serenity, contact was lost once again and the craft crashed on the moon.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was at hand to watch the landing, said that Israel will continue to try landing on the moon. Minutes later Netanyahu took to the microphone again to promise "Israel will land on the moon!"
- All is not lost — XPRIZE is recognizing SpaceIL's achievement with a $1 million Moonshot Award for this groundbreaking attempt... the company's team's successful entry into lunar orbit and the attempt to soft land on the lunar surface certainly captured the public's attention and imagination and should certainly inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers... as XPRIZE so aptly stated, this mission has propelled the commercial space industry forward.
The world's first privately-funded and operated lunar lander, an entrant in the defunct Google Lunar X-Prize competition, suffered a failure during a landing on the lunar surface. The Beresheet lander ("in the beginning" in Hebrew, so named after an Israel-wide naming competition) was designed and built by SpaceIL from 2011 onwards for the Lunar X-Prize competition, and the project continued when the Lunar X-Prize was ended in 2018 without a winner, or even without an entry flying into space.
SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by three Israeli engineers (Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari, and Yonatan Winetraub) who wanted to enter the Google Lunar X-Prize competition which at the time was teeming with competitor teams trying to win the $30 million prize. Besides trying to win the X-Prize, the SpaceIL effort was also intended to inspire Israelis and others to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to create an "Apollo effect" in the country.
The Google Lunar X-Prize, announced in 2007, required a safe landing on the Moon by the end of 2014, sending high definition images and video, and traveling 500 meters on the lunar surface, and the first lander to succeed would win the first prize of $20 million, with smaller prizes awarded to the second place finisher as well as teams that accomplished certain objectives.
The SpaceIL nonprofit group was able to keep going even as other teams began to drop out of the competition, and as the original deadline to win the X-Prize was extended. The SpaceIL team was helped by multiple donations from the Israeli Space Agency as well as a donation from billionaire Sheldon Adelson in 2014. In October 2015, SpaceIL became the first Lunar X-Prize entrant to secure a launch contract, which kept the competition going with the new deadline for completion set for December 2017.
In late 2017 SpaceIL requested $30 million to finish the lander, and several donors came through, which ensured that the spacecraft could eventually fly, even as Google withdrew its sponsorship of the Lunar X-Prize in early 2018, stating no team could make the final deadline of March 31, 2018. SpaceIL's launch contract with SpaceX and Spaceflight Industries was finalized and the mission was slotted to fly along with the Indonesian Nusantara Satu and USAF AFRL S5 satellites on a Falcon 9 Block 5.
The Beresheet lander was built by IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and is operated from a mission control facility in Yehud, Israel, southeast of Tel Aviv. The craft, with a mass of 585 kg fully fueled at liftoff, would be the smallest spacecraft ever to land on the lunar surface, and is a boxy structure 1.5 meters high and 2 meters wide (about the size of a washing machine) with four reverse-tripod landing legs and covered with gold multi-layer insulation.
• April 11, 2019: The engineering teams of SpaceIL and IAI have successfully performed the final maneuver before Israel's historic lunar spacecraft, Beresheet, lands on the moon. 19)
- The maneuver, which was performed at 7:40 p.m. (IST -Israel Standard Time) on April 10, Israel time, lowered the spacecraft's altitude in preparation for the landing tomorrow.
- Following the maneuver, Beresheet is again in an elliptical orbit, with its perilune (the closest point to the moon) only 15-17 km from the moon's surface and its epilune (the farthest point from the moon) at 200 km. The maneuver was performed on the far side of the moon with no real time communication. The spacecraft's engines were activated for 32 seconds and 5 kg of fuel were consumed.
- Having completed the maneuver, Beresheet will continue to orbit the moon in an elliptical orbit every two hours.
• April 8, 2019: At 7:48 a.m. Israel time on April 8, the engineering team of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries successfully carried out another maneuver of Israel's historic lunar spacecraft, Beresheet, in its orbit around the moon. 20)
- During the maneuver, Beresheet's engines operated for about 36 seconds, burning about six kg of fuel.
- The maneuver also took Beresheet closer to the moon's surface, from 750 km, called the apolune — the farthest point from the moon — to 210 km, or perilune, the orbital point closest to the moon.
- Beresheet is now in an elliptical orbit at an altitude of between 211 km and 467 km around the moon.
• April 5, 2019: Israel's historic spacecraft, which entered lunar orbit on April 4 on its journey to the moon - is on an "excellent" track, according to overnight data from the SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineering teams at their control room in Yehud, Israel. And next week, on April 11, Beresheet will make its most daring maneuver as it attempts to land on the lunar surface. 21) 22)
- Mission managers plan for it to touch down in Mare Serenitatis next week. It's a smooth area on the Moon's near side. And the location sits just about 100 miles from both the landing site of Apollo 15 and Apollo 17. Because Beresheet is a spacecraft on a budget, it doesn't carry any means of regulating its temperature. Engineers expect it to last for two to three days on the surface before it overheats under the sun's rays in the Moon's thin atmosphere.
• April 4, 2019: Six weeks after launching from Cape Canaveral, an Israeli-built probe funded through private donations arrived in orbit around the moon Thursday, setting the stage for the mission's final descent to the lunar surface April 11. 23)
- Engineers at the Beresheet mission control center in Israel confirmed the successful maneuver after telemetry radioed from the spacecraft showed it fired its main engine for approximately six minutes, slowing its speed enough to allow the moon's gravity to capture the probe in an elongated lunar orbit.
- The Beresheet spacecraft ignited its main engine at 1418 GMT Thursday (4 April) for the make-or-break maneuver to steer into orbit around the moon. If the probe misfired, Israeli officials said the spacecraft would have continued on into deep space, bringing the mission to an end.
- Mission controllers, managers and VIPs watched as data relayed from the spacecraft to the Israeli control center showed the engine burning normally. A display showing the total velocity change ΔV, from the engine firing counted upward until it reached 323.663 m/s (724 mph).
- The engine burn was designed to slow the probe's velocity by 324 m/s, and officials celebrated the result, which made Israel the seventh country or international organization to place a spacecraft in orbit around the moon — after Russia, the United States, Japan, ESA (European Space Agency), China and India.
- "After six weeks in space, we have succeeded in overcoming another critical stage by entering the moon's gravity," said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 to manage Beresheet's development. "This is another significant achievement our engineering team achieved while demonstrating determination and creativity in finding solutions to unexpected challenges. We still have a long way until the lunar landing, but I‘m convinced our team will complete the mission to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, making us all proud."
- Beresheet was expected to enter an elliptical, or oval-shaped, orbit ranging between 500 km and10,000 km above the moon's surface. Several more engine firings during the next week will place Beresheet in a circular 200 km-high orbit in preparation for a landing.
- Beresheet's lunar capture maneuver Thursday was also historic for the commercial space industry. The mission was designed, built and launched for around $100 million, and almost all of the funding came from private donors and corporate investments.
- "We've done it! First privately funded spacecraft in lunar orbit," tweeted Yoav Landsman, Beresheet's deputy mission director at SpaceIL. "Feels like the dawn of a new era of commercial space."
- Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, contributed $40 million of his fortune to the project. Kahn, 89, was at Beresheet's control center in Israel for Thursday's critical maneuver.
- "We've had support from all over the world," Kahn said Thursday. "NASA has recognized what we're doing, and the world has recognized what we're doing, and what we're doing is we're pioneering something in space. We're showing that a small country can actually do an amazing job."
- But more perils remain ahead for Beresheet. Its mission will culminate with a landing April 11 — next Thursday — in the Mare Serenitatis, or Sea of Serenity, region on the upper right part of the moon as viewed from Earth.
- "After a challenging journey, we made tonight another Israeli record and became the seventh nation to orbit the moon," said Nimrod Sheffer, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, Beresheet's prime contractor. "Even before Beresheet was launched, it already was a national success story that shows our groundbreaking technological capabilities. Tonight, we again reach new heights. In the coming week, our talented engineering team will work 24/7 to bring us to an historic event on April 11."
• April 1, 2019: At 9:00 AM Israel Time on April 1, Beresheet successfully completed another maneuver to make final adjustments before leaving Earth's orbit and joining the moon's orbit. 25)
- In this maneuver, SpaceIL and IAI engineering teams started and ran the spacecraft's engines for 72 seconds. The teams are assessing the results to determine if another alignment will be required before Beresheet enters the lunar orbit on 3 April.
- When Beresheet enters the moon's orbit, the spacecraft will perform lunar capture, a complex maneuver to enter the moon's gravity and begin orbiting the moon before its planned landing this month. SpaceIL and IAI are now preparing for the lunar capture by practicing several scenarios, simulations and in-depth tests in the hybrid lab. The lunar capture will be accessible for media coverage. Additional details to follow when available.
- Also, on 31 March at noon Israel time, Beresheet passed Earth at about 1,700 kilometers for the last time. The engineering teams succeeded in taking a rare photo of Earth from a distance of about 16,000 kilometers.
• March 7, 2019: At 3:11 p.m., Israel time (8:11 a.m. Eastern), on March 7, SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineers conducted another successful Beresheet maneuver. 26)
- Beresheet is on its way to an elliptical orbit where the farthest point from Earth is at a distance 270,000 km.
- The maneuver was complicated, due to the need to deal with the constraints of the star trackers, but was carried out according to plan. During the maneuver, Beresheet's main engine was activated for 152 seconds. The next maneuver is planned in another two weeks.
• March 6, 2019: SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) have shared that Beresheet's camera took a selfie photo for the first time, from a distance of 37,600 km from Earth. 27)
- The spacecraft transmitted the photo to the control room in Yehud, Israel, which is staffed 24/7 by SpaceIL and IAI engineers.
- In the photo of Earth, taken during a slow spin of the spacecraft, Australia is clearly visible. Also seen is the plaque installed on the spacecraft, with the Israeli flag and the inscriptions "Am Yisrael Chai" and "Small Country, Big Dreams."
• March 4, 2019: A new video has been posted by SpaceIL's co-founder, Yonatan Winetraub, that reviews last week's computer issue and the ensuing successful maneuver. 28)
• February 28, 2019: Update #3: After completing the examination of the computer resets and the implementation of corrective measures, Beresheet conducted a successful maneuver on 28 February at 9:30 p.m., Israel time. 29)
- The spacecraft is on its way to an elliptical orbit where the farthest point from Earth is at a distance of 131,000 km.
- The maneuver was executed as planned and Beresheet's main engine was activated for four minutes. The next maneuver is planned in another week.
• On 26 February 2019 at approximately 12:00 a.m., Israel time, another maneuver was planned for Beresheet as the spacecraft passed near Earth in an area without communication. 30)
- During the pre-maneuver phase, the spacecraft computer reset unexpectedly, causing this action to be automatically cancelled. The engineering teams of SpaceIL and IAI are examining the data and analyzing the situation. At this time, the spacecraft's systems are working well, save for the known problem in the star tracker.
• On 24 February 2019 Israeli non-profit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that at 1:29 p.m., Israel time (6:20 a.m., EST), Beresheet's first maneuver was completed successfully by SpaceIL and IAI's engineering team. Good news as each step is accomplished along the journey of Israel's first voyage to the moon. 31)
- The planned maneuver took into account the problems that were identified in the star trackers after launch.
- This was the first time Beresheet's main engine was activated. The 30 second maneuver was made at a distance of 69,400 km. from Earth and will increase the spacecrafts' closest point of approach to Earth to a distance of 600 km.
- Beresheet continues its course according to plan and the next maneuver is scheduled for Monday night.
• February 22, 2019: The Beresheet spacecraft successfully disengaged from the SpaceX Falcon-9 at around 60,000 kilometers above Earth's surface, and started, under is own power, a two-month voyage to the Moon's surface. 32)
- Beresheet communicated for the first time with the mission's control center in Yehud, Israel, at 9:23 p.m. ET and the spacecraft's legs deployed two minutes later.
- As of Friday morning (22 February), the spacecraft was 69,400 km. above Earth and is starting its way back to begin its first orbit around Earth.
- In the meantime, the engineers at the SpaceIL and IAI control room have been conducting many on-orbit tests and have identified high sensitivity to blinding by the sun's rays in the star trackers, though that issue is being checked.
1) Jeff Foust, "SpaceIL completes lunar lander for February launch," Space News, 18 December 2018, URL: https://spacenews.com/spaceil-completes-lunar-lander-for-february-launch/
3) Nicholas Sakelaris,"Israeli firms to launch first private lunar lander with flag, Bible," 18 December 2018, URL: https://www.upi.com/Israeli-firms-to-launch-
5) "Space Notebook: Lunar lander arrives in Florida ahead of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch," Florida Today, 20 January 2019, URL: https://eu.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2019/01/20/space-
6) Amarelle Wenkert, "Canadian Billionaire Sylvan Adams Backs Israeli Moon Landing Initiative," 19 November 2018, URL: https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3750160,00.html
7) "Israeli Spacecraft on Its Way to the Moon," Davidson Institute, 10 July 2018, URL: https://davidson.weizmann.ac.il/en/online/sciencenews/
8) XPrize Plans To Continue Lunar XPrize Mission," XPrize.org, 5 April 2018, URL: https://lunar.xprize.org/prizes/lunar/articles/xprize-plans-
9) "The demise of the Google Lunar X Prize," Physics Today, 31 January 2018, URL: https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.2.20180131a/full/
10) Adam Green, Adam Michaels, Noam Tene, "Navigation of a Lunar Spacecraft as a Secondary Payload: SpaceIL's Google Lunar X-Prize Mission," Proceedings of the 66th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2015), Jerusalem, Israel, Oct.12-16, 2015, paper: IAC-15,A3,2C,3
12) "Spaceflight Prepares for the First, Privately-Funded, Lunar Lander and AFRL Satellite Launch," Satnews Daily, 12 February 2019, URL: http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=1714431800#
13) "NASA Administrator Statement on Israeli Moon Mission," NASA News Release 19-012, 22 February 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa
14) Lonnie Shekhtman, "NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt," NASA News, 21 February 2019, URL: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/856/nasa
15) Sarah Loff, "Beresheet Impact Site Spotted," NASA, 15 May 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/lro-
16) "An Errant Command is Responsible for Beresheet's Crash into the Moon," Satnews Daily, 17 April 2019, URL: http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=1473180905
17) "UPDATE #14 — FINAL: SpaceIL's and IAI's Historic Moon Landing to Remain an Attempt — $1 Million Awarded to SpaceIL by XPRIZE," Satnews Daily, 11 April 2019, URL: http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=461733329
18) Justin Davenport, "Beresheet fails in historic lunar landing attempt for SpaceIL," NASA Spaceflight.com, 11 April 2019, URL: https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2019/04/beresheet-lunar-landing/
20) "UPDATE #12: SpaceIL's and IAI's Beresheet Spacecraft Completes Another Lunar Maneuver... Ever Closer to the Moon," Satnews Daily, 8 April 2019, URL: http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=461733329
22) Korey Haynes, "Now in lunar orbit, Israel's Beresheet mission preps for Moon landing," Astronomy, 5 April 2019, URL: http://www.astronomy.com/news/2019/04/now-in-lunar-orbit
23) Stephen Clark, "Israel's Beresheet lander brakes into lunar orbit," Spaceflight Now, 4 April 2019, URL: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/04/04/israels-
24) Jason Davis, "Beresheet Has Entered Lunar Orbit!," The Planetary Society, 4 April 2019, URL: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/beresheet-loi.html
30) "UPDATE #2: SpaceIL and IAI's Beresheet Spacecraft's Second Maneuver Canceled," Satnews Daily, 26 February 2019, URL: http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=461733329
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).