Mission At-A-Glance:

  • Customers: SpaceIL, U.S. Air Force Research Lab
  • Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
  • Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
  • Orbit: GTO
  • Total spacecraft: 2

The primary payload on the mission was a telecommunications satellite for the South East Asia region. It was built by SSL, a Maxar Technologies company, which also procured the launch vehicle.

This was Spaceflight’s first mission beyond Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) and its first combined launch with SSL. Spaceflight managed the launch of the two secondary payloads, Israeli non-profit SpaceIL’s lunar lander, and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) experimental small satellite, S5.

In addition to securing capacity aboard the launch vehicle, Spaceflight handled all the mission management and integration services for the lunar lander, called Beresheet (Hebrew for in the beginning), and AFRL’s spacecraft. This included a multitude of services, from the unique aspects of pre-launch design, assembly, and integration to the final analysis and testing of the architecture before the spacecraft was encapsulated into the rocket.

A Ground-breaking Mission

While rideshare missions are becoming more and more routine, Spaceflight’s first GTO mission stood apart for several other reasons.

  • The spacecraft headed to two different orbits. Once the Falcon 9 reached GTO, separated SpaceIL’s lunar lander with a custom separation system. Beresheet orbited Earth, gradually increasing its apogee until it could maneuver to be captured by the Moon’s gravity. It traveled to the Moon’s surface under its own power, a voyage taking nearly two months.
  • Following Beresheet’s deployment, the AFRL spacecraft, built by Blue Canyon Technologies, remained attached to the telecommunications satellite as they continued their journey to Geostationary Orbit (GEO). Before the telecommunications satellite reached its final GEO position, it separated the S5 spacecraft which then turned on and started its mission.
  • SpaceIL’s four-legged lunar spacecraft, which was competing in the Google Lunar XPrize, weighed only 1,322 pounds, or 600 kilograms. Although it suffered a malfunction that caused it to crash on the surface, Beresheet was Israel’s first spacecraft and the world’s first privately funded spacecraft to reach the Moon.

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