For the First Time, Israel’s Beresheet Fires Engine in Space

Last Thursday, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched first Israel’s Moon lander, Beresheet, into space on 21st February. Yesterday, it fired up its main engine in space at 1:29 PM Israel’s time on 24th February. It was the first in-space maneuver by Beresheet.

The mission team reported that the maneuver made by the lunar lander was of 30-seconds. It was made at a distance of 69,400 km from Earth. They further added that the maneuver will increase the closest point of approach of the spacecraft to Earth by a distance of 600 km.

By firing the engine into space, the spacecraft handlers were able to take into account the problems that were identified in the star trackers after the launch of Beresheet.

SpaceIL's Beresheet lunar lander
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Image Credit: SpaceIL

The private lunar lander will perform several more burns in the upcoming weeks. Its mission is to push the most distant point from Earth, perigee, from its elliptical orbit towards the moon. They have scheduled the next maneuver on 25th February.

The team is determined that if all the things go according to the schedule, Beresheet will enter the lunar orbit on 4th April and land on the moon’s surface after one week.

The spacecraft will perform some science work during its surface mission which will be of two-Earth-days. The main objectives of the whole mission are to advance the space program of Israel and to inspire young people to care more about science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.

Beresheet is a joint project of SpaceIL and the Israel Aerospace Industries for the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP). The 5-foot tall spacecraft was originally designed to hop as per the requirements of the contest. But it ended without announcing the winner.

However, SpaceIL decided to keep shooting for the moon. With this project, the team is on a mission to perform ambitious exploration feats in cheap. The total cost of this project is about $100 million. This also includes the launching cost of the spacecraft. They are further planning to plan to keep it stationary on the moon, since moving it around would lead to risks.

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