LAS CRUCES, N.M. — An Israeli team participating in the Google Lunar X Prize competition has a contract to launch its spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2017, the first launch contract officially confirmed by the prize’s organizers.
Tel Aviv-based SpaceIL announced Oct. 7 that it has a contract to fly its lunar lander as one of the primary payloads on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch purchased in September by Spaceflight Industries. That launch, which will carry about 20 other spacecraft, is scheduled for the second half of 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
SpaceIL Chief Executive Eran Privman said in an Oct. 7 phone interview that he chose the SpaceX launch opportunity after an extensive search. “We tried everyone around the world,” he said, including Indian, Russian, European and U.S. vehicles. SpaceIL had previously considered flying as a secondary payload on a planned Russian lunar mission, he said, but the Ukraine crisis raised concerns about getting export approvals.
It would be kind of cool to see a company from Israel, using a commercial American rocket, win the X-Prize for getting to the Moon and returning videos from the surface.
All for about $50 million. Amazing to think this is just a few years away.