SpaceX launches satellites, moon mission on Falcon 9

Tonight, SpaceX will be launching the first private lunar mission ever, the Israeli company SpaceIL's Beresheet (Genesis) Lander, along with an Indian communications satellite they hope will bring greater connectivity to rural areas, and the US Air Force (USAF) Research Lab's S5 satellite, which is meant to keep track of space junk now in orbit. Beresheet, the Hebrew word for "in the beginning", was designed by the nonprofit SpaceIL, a team of engineers who began the project for the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which challenged participants to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

"All the best to (at) TeamSpaceIL as it starts its journey tonight on a (at) SpaceX (hash) Falcon9 from Florida to my old stomping ground.the moon", Aldrin tweeted. Touchdown would be April 11 at the Sea of Serenity.

The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon.

Antebi says SpaceIL wants to show that a small country, with a small budget can join the prestigious moon landing club of the US, Russia, and China.

If successful, Israel will be the fourth country to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon's surface.

Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat. The $100 million Beresheet mission couldn't afford its own rocket - even a little one - so the organisers opted for a ride share. That makes for a much longer trip; the moon right now is almost 370,000 kilometres away.

The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

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Other partners are IAI, Israel's space agency its Ministry of Science and Technology.

The Beresheet mission originally was part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition and even made the final cut before the contest ended past year without a victor.

The organizers made a decision to press ahead on their own, with donations from billionaires as well as schoolchildren.

SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket's first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021. "We can use our deep space network to communicate back home and get all kinds of data and information.... but we're going to be able to do it for a fraction of the cost", he said on Thursday. About eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's second stage shut down, kicking off a 19-minute coast phase.

SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening.

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the booster could fly again as early as April in support of Crew Dragon's in-flight abort mission, although his implication that that test will occur in April directly contradicts a recent NASA schedule update that pegged the test no earlier than (NET) June 2019.

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