SpaceIL's Beresheet spacecraft is on its way to the Moon following a successful launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. Liftoff occurred as scheduled on 22 February at 01:45 UTC (21 February 20:45 EST). You can watch a replay of SpaceX's launch broadcast here.
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Liftoff of Beresheet
Beresheet blasts off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 with the Nusantara Satu and S5 satellites on 22 February at 01:45 UTC (21 February 20:45 EST).
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. In the background played SpaceX's live launch broadcast from Hawthorne, California, where an announcer said the Falcon 9 first stage would attempt to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You under the harshest weather conditions to date. Sparks could be seen coming off the rocket's aft heat shielding as it fell back to Earth, but the landing was successful:
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, completing this booster’s third launch and landing. pic.twitter.com/IP6yvi8SQa
Meanwhile, Beresheet, the Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite, and the primary payload, Nusantara Saru, pushed on to orbit. About eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's second stage shut down, kicking off a 19-minute coast phase. The engine fired again for a final two-minute burn, and after a five-minute coast, Beresheet was deployed successfully. Nusantara Satru and S5 popped loose 11 minutes after that.
Beresheet separated from its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Nusantara Satu/S5 satellite stack 34 minutes after launch on 22 February 2018. Unfortunately, separation wasn't visible because the Sun was directly in the Falcon 9 payload camera's line of sight.
Nusantara Satru and S5 will head to geosynchronous orbit before parting ways, while Beresheet conducts a series of phasing loops to raise its orbit until the spacecraft is captured by lunar gravity.
Beresheet has already cleared some crucial early milestones:
Beresheet's next big challenge is an optional apogee burn in about 8 hours. It will take 40 days total for the spacecraft to reach the Moon, followed by another week in lunar orbit before landing. For an expanded timeline, don't miss our What to Expect article!