Beresheet’s second engine burn stopped by computer reset

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It appears that the second engine burn to raise the orbit of Israel’s privately built lunar lander, Beresheet, did not happen as planned because of an unexpected computer reboot.

In a statement Tuesday morning, SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineers said they were investigating the malfunction, but said that other than a known problem with the navigation system’s star tracker, the Beresheet’s systems were all functioning properly.

The maneuver was scheduled to take place Monday night, as the spacecraft passed near the Earth in an area where the Ramat Gan-based SpaceIL ground crew would not be in direct communication with the craft.

During the pre-maneuver phase, the spacecraft computer reset unexpectedly, and the maneuver was automatically cancelled.

The question that immediately comes to mind: Did they purchase a space-hardened computer? Cosmic rays can wreck havoc on computer memory, causing just this type of unexpected reset, so computers in space need to be much better shielded than on Earth.



  • Edward

    The question that immediately comes to my mind is: why did the computer reset occur during the burn?

    Although it could be a radiation-caused upset, it is important to consider the likelihood that it was something associated with the activity going on at the time and not necessarily associated with a radiation-caused event. Although a cosmic ray could cause trouble at any time, this event occurred during an active time for the spacecraft, raising some suspicions in my mind. Either way, a good failure analysis team would look at a very wide range of possibilities in order to rule out the impossible, leaving only causes within a range of improbabilities.

    The first burn, which raised the perigee, was clearly intended to keep the spacecraft as much out of the Van Allen belts as possible in order to reduce problems associated with that radiation.

    However, since the subsequent burns were to take place at or near perigee, in order to raise the apogee, they take place when the spacecraft is closest to Van Allen radiation, but it is designed to be a low risk, at this point. As the apogee rises, however, the apogee begins to exit the (otherwise) protective magnetic field of the Earth, and solar radiation becomes another risk factor.

    Yes, much of a spacecraft’s electronics needs some radiation protection.

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