Israel’s first lunar spacecraft began its planned journey to the moon Jan. 17, when it was flown in a cargo plane from Ben Gurion Airport to Orlando, Florida.
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, according to a news release.
The Beresheet (“in the beginning”) spacecraft is slated to launch at Cape Canaveral no earlier than mid-February.
The mission is a project of Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries.
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, according to the release. 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.
About $40 million in financing for the project has come from Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli philanthropist and businessman who serves as SpaceIL’s president.
“The excitement we all feel today will only intensify moving forward, and I can’t wait for the next milestone,” Kahn said. “This is only the beginning.”