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SpaceIL’s attempt to land its Beresheet lunar lander on the Moon in April ended in disappointment, but technology developed for the mission by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will now assist an American space company’s science payload deliveries to the lunar surface.
Texas-headquartered Firefly Aerospace, one of nine companies selected to participate in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, has signed an intellectual property and engineering support agreement with IAI for technology based on the Beresheet spacecraft.
“This agreement with IAI will allow Firefly to build on our momentum and expand our lunar capabilities by creating a US-built version of IAI’s historic lunar lander,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic.
Firefly’s lunar lander will be called “Genesis,” the English word for Beresheet.
“Having access to flight proven lunar lander technology and the expertise of IAI engineers makes Firefly well placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market,” Markusic said.
Described by NASA as the “first major step” to return astronauts to the Moon under US President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1, the nine companies selected to participate in CLPS will bid to deliver science and technology payloads to the surface of the Moon for NASA.
The indefinite delivery and quantity contracts have a cumulative maximum value of $2.6 billion over the next decade. The missions will also enable NASA to test technologies that will improve the design of landers to carry humans to the Moon.
“The experience gained in the Beresheet Moon mission co-developed with SpaceIL puts IAI at the forefront of lunar lander technology, and enables us to undertake additional lunar missions with proven technology and significant engineering experience and knowhow,” said Boaz Levi, IAI executive vice president and general manager of Systems, Missiles & Space Group.
SpaceIL’s first, ill-fated Beresheet project crash-landed in the Moon’s Sea of Serenity on April 11.
Engineers lost contact with the spacecraft only minutes before it was due to complete the historic landing – a feat previously achieved only by the United States, Russia (then the USSR) and China – after an epic seven-week, 6.5 million km. journey since Beresheet blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on board a SpaceX rocket on February 22.
While the spacecraft attempted to restart its engine several times after losing contact, the attempts proved unsuccessful, making a high-velocity crash landing on the moon inevitable. Days after the failed landing, SpaceIL announced Beresheet 2, a second mission to land an Israeli spacecraft on the Moon.
The initial Beresheet mission budget stood at approximately NIS 350m. ($98m.) – financed almost entirely by private donors and costing a fraction of the missions sponsored by governments of the three countries that have successfully reached the Moon to date.
While SpaceIL and its lead donor, Morris Kahn, stated their ambition to complete Beresheet 2 within two years, the organization is now formulating new objectives. Last month, SpaceIL announced that returning to the Moon was “not a sufficiently great challenge.” The nonprofit will instead search for a new challenge, keeping the public informed of any decisions made and continuing its educational “Beresheet Effect” projects for schoolchildren.
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