At a press conference held in Jerusalem today, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced a significant milestone in its race to the moon: securing a “ticket to the moon” on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, with a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017. With this, SpaceIL becomes the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, and aims to accomplish not only the first Israeli mission to the moon, but also the world’s first private lunar mission.
“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE. “The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately funded organization, and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts. It gives all of us at XPRIZE and Google the great pride to say, ‘the new space race is on!’”
To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017.
“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list looks more promising than ever,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman. “Last year we made significant strides toward landing on the moon, both in terms of project financing and in terms of the engineering design, and now we are thrilled to finally secure our launch agreement. This takes us one huge step closer to realizing our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM).”
Signing the launch agreement was made possible due to the completion of an additional fundraising round led by the two major contributors to SpaceIL: Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation and Morris Kahn’s Kahn Foundation.
SpaceIL has purchased launch services from Spaceflight Industries, an American space company that recently purchased a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and will manifest SpaceIL’s spacecraft as a co-lead spot, which will sit in a designated capsule inside the launcher, among a cluster of secondary payloads. Once the capsule separates from the launcher, it will automatically release the spacecraft, which will use advanced navigation sensors to guide it to the lunar surface, with engineers in a mission control room standing by to remotely send commands and corrections as needed.
“We’re excited to work closely with the SpaceIL team to help them realize their mission of getting to the moon,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. “It’s very gratifying to play an integral part in SpaceIL’s quest to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE.”
Also today, SpaceIL unveiled a new and improved design of its spacecraft, completed by SpaceIL engineers with consultation from world-renowned Israeli industrial designer, Alex Padwa, regarding the spacecraft’s exterior. The first physical components of the new model are already starting to arrive at the SpaceIL integration lab.
Date: Oct 7, 2015