SpaceIL gets $5 million for its lunar lander/rover

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Capitalism in space: SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit building a lunar lander/rover that had been a finalist in the Google Lunar X-Price, announced today that it has received a $5 million donation from a Canadian billionaire.

SpaceIL announced Monday that [Sylvan] Adams would be joining their groundbreaking project and donating $5 million to the effort. The nonprofit organization’s spacecraft is due to be launched in early 2019 and reach the moon two months later, making Israel only the fourth country to soft-land on the lunar surface.

“This contribution to strengthening the Israeli space program, and encouraging education for excellence and innovation among the younger generation in Israel, is the best gift I could have asked for,” said Adams, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, as he announced his contribution at the Israel Aerospaces Industries (IAI) MBT Space Division in Yehud, where the spacecraft is being assembled.

SpaceIL has said it’s mission is focused on education and inspiring Israel’s youth. If so, it seems to me that it is missing the boat. There is money to be made marketing their ability to build inexpensive planetary spacecraft.



  • Andi

    ” launched in early 2019 and reach the moon two months later “.

    Given that Apollo got there in three days, I wonder what the trajectory will be that takes two months.

  • Edward

    This may help explain it:

    Once Sparrow is in Earth orbit and separated from the Falcon 9 launcher [as a secondary payload], and after several orbits around Earth, the spacecraft will slowly perform orbit raising. The orbit raising would take 2.5 month before reaching the Moon’s area of influence. Once there, the spacecraft will perform manuevers to be captured in a Lunar orbit, and orbit around the Moon between two weeks and 1 month. In the right orbit around the landing site, it will decelerate until soft-landing on the lunar surface.

    Rather than use one translunar injection burn, as Apollo did, Sparrow will use several burns to raise its apogee and will eventually be captured by the Moon.

  • Andi

    Thanks, Edward, that makes it quite clear. I assume the purpose of all this orbit raising is to save fuel over the TLI approach.

  • Edward

    I don’t know the engine that Sparrow uses, but generally speaking engines with better efficiency (higher specific impulse) tend to have lower thrust. Ion engines, for example, are very efficient but are very low thrust. With the greater efficiency, they can use less propellant to do the same task, which allowed the Dawn probe to visit both Vesta and Ceres asteroids.

    However, with lower thrust, they have more difficulty using the TLI approach, so using multiple apogee-raising thruster burns tends to help, as they can also take advantage of the Oberth effect, which is the added efficiency of using thrusters at perigee.

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