Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL, is scheduling its first private mission to the moon, for 2017. The group hopes to win Google’s Lunar XPRIZE of $30 million.
Forbes reports that SpaceIL is among the first of hopefuls to schedule a launch, during which will put an unmanned rover on the moon, for a soft landing.
The organization said during a press conference in Jerusalem that they have signed up with Spaceflight Industries, and have purchased a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket is expected to help ride-share launches of small satellites.
Bob Weiss, chairman and president of XPRIZE confirmed the receipt and verification of the launch contract for SpaceIL. He also confirmed that they are the first team to do so.
If SpaceIL wins the competition, not only will they be among the very few to have landed a craft on the moon, but it will be the first private organization as well as the first Israeli mission to end in a moon landing. Fifteen other teams are in the running to be the first private organization to land on the moon.
Winners must do more than just land on the moon. In order to win Google’s XPRIZE, a mission will only be considered a success if the surface is explored for at least 500 meters, and if high resolution photo and video is transmitted. The deadline for these goals is December 31, 2017.
SpaceIL is attempting a “hop” maneuver, rather than a traditional rover for their mission. The craft will instead land once, then use remaining fuel to take off and “hop” the 500 meter distance required. This has helped the team build a smaller, more affordable spacecraft.
The SpaceIL craft will launch on Spaceflight Industries’s Falcon 9 rocket, with a few small satellites. The craft, nicknamed the 2017 Sun Synch Express, is due to launch in the second half of 2017, corresponding to a low-earth orbit.