A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel's first lunar lander on a mission that, if successful, will make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon's surface.
If the moon mission's launch and landing succeeds, Israel will enter history as the fourth country ever to set down a spacecraft on the surface of the moon. The booster landed smoothly on an offshore ocean platform, after the hottest re-entry yet, according to SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk.
Combined with Musk's apparent belief that B1048 - having just experienced what he described as the "highest reentry heating to date" - could be ready to launch again as few as 40-70 days from now, this successful launch and landing of a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster (the second time a SpaceX rocket as flown for the third time) suggests that the Block 5 upgrade continues to operate nominally.
Also known as PSN-6, Nusantara Satu is a geostationary communications satellite built by the California-based aerospace company SSL for Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, Indonesia's first private telecommunications company.
Falcon 9's first stage for the Nusantara Satu mission previously supported the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018.
The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet - Hebrew for the biblical phrase "in the beginning" - soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop the 23-story-tall rocket. After SpaceX launches the craft into orbit, it will travel to the moon over the course of the next two months or so.
Deployments will occur at approximately 33 and 44 minutes after liftoff. The group of scientists and engineers were originally part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition. It will also be the first non-governmental spacecraft to reach the moon.
SpaceIL's mission for the lander is to beam back photos and video, and to measure the magnetosphere.
Previous missions have reached the moon much faster. It's working on the Beresheet mission in collaboration with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, but the almost $100 million in funding for the mission has come from Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson and other philanthropists. The company, inspired by SpaceIL's lunar ambitions, has developed commercial ambitions of its own regarding the moon.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Israeli startup SpaceIL partnering with SpaceX to launch the first private lunar lander to the Moon and China's lunar lander on the far side of the moon.
Nusantara Satu is a 4,100-kilogram communications satellite equipped with C- and Ku-band transponders, mainly for broadband connectivity.