SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with first privately funded lunar lander on board

SpaceX successfully completed its 70th space mission on Friday morning. The company launched a Falcon 9 with three spacecraft on board, including the Israeli SpaceIL lunar lander. The Falcon 9 rocket landed on the drone ship.

SpaceX has the three spacecraft with its mission from Cape Canaveral in the US successfully launched into their orbit. The first to be released was the SpaceIL lander. It then went on its two-month journey to the moon, during which the spacecraft will take photos en route and after landing.

The lunar lander is called Beresheet, Hebrew for “in the beginning” and comes from the non-profit organization SpaceIL. It is the first privately funded moon mission and it is also the first time that Israel sends an unmanned probe to the moon. With Beresheet, Israel joins the ranks of the United States, Russia and China, which have already brought landers to the moon.

SpaceIL stems from the Lunar X Prize competition that Google announced in 2007. The goal was to initiate private moon landings, with a top prize of $25 million. Organizations had to reach the celestial body with their lunar lander and travel 500 meters there. The Israeli team was the first to officially sign up and push through with the plan, even though the 2017 deadline has passed for official eligibility for the win.

The Falcon 9 also carried an Indonesian satellite called Nusantara Satu, which is supposed to provide satellite internet in the Asian country. The mission’s third spacecraft is the S5, a US Department of Defense small satellite.

SpaceX and Spaceflight Industries carried out the mission. The latter company is an intermediary for space flights. Parties can report to Spaceflight Industries to send payloads if space is available. This mission initially revolved around the Nusantara Satu, after which Spaceflight Industries filled in the other two spots for SpaceIL and US Defense. Afterwards, the Falcon 9 rocket landed again on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’. It was the third time that this rocket successfully performed a launch and landing.