PHOTO: The spacecraft, inside a temperature-controlled shipping container, was loaded into a cargo plane at Ben Gurion Airport and then flown to Florida. Photo by Eliran Avital
Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries’ first lunar spacecraft began a historic journey to the moon Jan. 17, when it was transported in a cargo plane from Ben Gurion Airport to Orlando, FL, ahead of launching from SpaceX Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next month.
SpaceIL and IAI packed the 180-kilogram spacecraft 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 spacecraft – named Beresheet (the Hebrew word for in the beginning) – was driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 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,” says 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 says 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.”
SpaceIL and IAI engineers will accompanied 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.
Upon completing its lunar mission – the first in Israel’s history and the first that’s privately funded – Israel would join superpowers China, Russia and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon.
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 excitement we all feel today will only intensify moving forward, and I can’t wait for the next milestone,” says Kahn. “This is only the beginning.”
Additional donors include Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson – whose $24 million contribution enabled the project to continue – and Lynn Schusterman, Steven and Nancy Grand, Sylvan Adams and Sami Sagol.