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Jason DavisJanuary 22, 2019

Israeli Beresheet Moon lander ships to Florida for mid-February launch

Israeli non-profit SpaceIL has shipped its privately developed Moon lander, Beresheet, to Cape Canaveral ahead of its mid-February launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The lander, which is one of at least three payloads on the mission, will spend two months traveling to the Moon ahead of a touchdown in Mare Serentitas this April. 

News brief

Beresheet, which means "in the beginning," or Genesis (Hebrew: בראשית), completed final assembly and testing at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's largest aerospace and defense contractor. Here it is getting boxed up for shipping:

Beresheet getting ready to ship


Beresheet getting ready to ship
A technician prepares Beresheet for shipping at Israel Aerospace Industries.

And here's a time-lapse video:

Beresheet shipping timelapse
Beresheet is packed for shipping at Israel Aerospace Industries.

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The spacecraft flew out of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. Here it is getting loaded on the plane:

Beresheet getting loaded

Eliran Avital / SpaceIL

Beresheet getting loaded
Beresheet is loaded onto a cargo plane at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel.

After it arrived in Orlando, the spacecraft was transported to Cape Canaveral for final testing and mating to its Falcon 9 rocket. Beresheet is one of at least three spacecraft on the rocket. The mission's primary payload is the Indonesian telecommunications satellite Nusantara Satu, which itself will be attached to an undisclosed U.S. government satellite.

All three spacecraft will pop off the Falcon 9 in a 60,000-kilometer-high geosynchronous transfer orbit. Beresheet will begin raising its orbit until it gets captured by the Moon's gravity, while Nusantara Satu and its attached ridealong spacecraft will head to geosynchronous orbit. There, the two spacecraft will part ways.

Launch is currently set for 19 February at 02:00 UTC (18 February 9:00 p.m. EST), according to PSN, the company that will operate Nusantara Satu.

Here's a landing site map, updated by Phil Stooke in December:

Beresheet landing site in Mare Serentitas

Phil Stooke

Beresheet landing site in Mare Serentitas
This map of Beresheet landing sites was created from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter wide-angle mosaic data, and shows three sites identified in Aharonson et al. (2019).

If successful, Beresheet will make Israel just the fourth country to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon, following the United States, Russia, and China. The spacecraft will measure the Moon's magnetic field at the landing site and capture images on the surface, in addition to carrying a NASA-provided retroreflector to be targeted by future lunar orbiters.

Read more: Beresheet, the Moon

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Jason Davis

Editorial Director for The Planetary Society
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