SpaceIL Signs First Verified Google Lunar X Prize Launch Contract

SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)
SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

JERUSALEM, Israel, October 7, 2015 (SpaceIL PR) — At a press conference held in Jerusalem today, alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced a significant milestone in its race to the moon: securing a “ticket to the moon” on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher, with a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017. With this, SpaceIL becomes the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, and aims to accomplish not only the first Israeli mission to the moon, but also the world’s first private lunar mission.

“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE. “The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately-funded organization, and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts. It gives all of us at XPRIZE and Google the great pride to say, ‘the new space race is on!’”

To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017.

“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list look more promising than ever,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman. “ Last year we made significant strides toward landing on the moon, both in terms of project financing and in terms of the engineering design and now, we are thrilled to finally secure our launch agreement. This takes us one huge step closer to realize our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM).”

Signing the launch agreement was made possible due to the completion of an additional fundraising round led by the two major contributors of SpaceIL: Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation and Morris Kahn’s Kahn Foundation.

SpaceIL has purchased launch services from Spaceflight Industries; an American space company who recently purchased a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and will manifest SpaceIL’s spacecraft as a co-lead spot, which will sit in a designated capsule inside the launcher, among a cluster of secondary payloads. Once the capsule separates from the launcher, it will automatically release the spacecraft, which will use advanced navigation sensors to guide it to the lunar surface, with engineers in a mission control room standing by to remotely send commands and corrections as needed.

“We’re excited to work closely with the SpaceIL team to help them realize their mission of getting to the moon”, said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. “It’s very gratifying to play an integral part in SpaceIL’s quest to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE.”

Also today, SpaceIL unveiled a new and improved design of its spacecraft, completed by SpaceIL engineers with consultation from world-renowned Israeli industrial designer, Alex Padwa, regarding the spacecraft’s exterior. The first physical components of the new model are already starting to arrive at the SpaceIL integration lab.

About SpaceIL

SpaceIL is a nonprofit organization working to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. SpaceIL was founded at the end of 2010 by three young engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Weintroub, who entered the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, an international race to the Moon. The only Israeli team in the competition, SpaceIL is building a small and smart spacecraft for landing on the Moon. SpaceIL is committed to using the potential prize money to promote science and scientific education in Israel, to ensure that Israel will continue to live up to its reputation of excellence in the field. Through this mission, SpaceIL aspires to create a new “Apollo effect,” inspiring the next generation of Israelis to choose Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM). For more information, visit www.spaceil.com.

About the Google Lunar XPRIZE

The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE is an unprecedented competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017. The first team that successfully completes this mission will be awarded the $20M dollar Grand Prize and the second team to successfully complete the mission will be awarded $5M, with Bonus Prizes available for further technical and scientific achievements, such as surviving the lunar night or visiting an Apollo landing site. To win either of these prizes, teams must prove that 90% of their mission costs were funded by private sources. For more information, visit http://lunar.xprize.org/ or @GLXP.

About Spaceflight

Spaceflight is a next-generation, integrated space services and solutions company that is fundamentally changing how small satellites are built, launched and operated to improve access to space and enable persistent global awareness. Through its market-leading subsidiaries and service lines, including Spaceflight Systems, Spaceflight Services and Spaceflight Networks, the company provides cost-effective, comprehensive small-satellite products and services from development to launch, communications and operations. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Spaceflight provides its services worldwide through its global network of partners, ground stations and launch vehicle providers. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com/.

  • therealdmt

    Wow, the race is indeed on. Let’s get going, Astrobotic!

  • Terry Rawnsley

    That doesn’t look much like a rover to me. I hope it doesn’t break making it’s second landing.

  • Hug Doug

    It’s a hopper.

  • TimR

    Ok. I’ll ask the question. Why wasn’t Moon Express’ accepted as the first confirmed launch contract?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The GLXP rules requires you land on the moon, take some HD video and traverse 500 meters from your landing point. Didn’t say anything about a rover.

    Moon Express is basically doing the same thing except their lander/hopper is much smaller. IIRC the MX lander/hopper will have a mass of 10 kg after landing.

    So it is the washing machine size lander from SpaceL versus the microwave oven size lander from Moon Express in the GLXP contest so far.

  • Hug Doug

    MoonEx’s launch booking hasn’t been verified by GLXP yet.

  • TimR

    i figured that much already. My question is why.

  • Hug Doug

    Perhaps they incorrectly filled out the verification paperwork?

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I understand that the rules don’t require the lander to be a rover. Of course, if they land upside down or break a leg or two after the “hop,” (in other words, fail to land completely functional in all respects) I would hope they would be disqualified.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I have a hopper attached to my TV. It doesn’t look anything like that. 🙂

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Sadly if the GLXP entrant can transmit the video back to Earth by some means it doesn’t matter the condition of the lander/hopper. As long as they hopped at least 500 meters from the initial landing point.

    Will be interesting for the hopper to ascend from the Moon surface followed by a landing attempt. Believe it will be a historical first.

    I will be happy with just a good initial landing on the Moon surface.

  • mfck

    They contracted a new launch provider (RocketLab), which launched zero rockets until now, naturally, GLXP takes time to scrutinize this launch contract in depth and to evaluate the validity of RocketLab claim that it will be able to launch on time

  • Aerospike

    I was thinking the same thing more ore less. I guess GLXP is currently internally debating if the contract with rocket labs qualifies as a launch contract – since it isn’t even know if the rocket will be ready by the time specified.

  • ThomasLMatula

    This appears to be the launch they bought space on.

    http://spacenews.com/spaceflight-industries-buys-falcon-9-launch/

    Spaceflight Industries Buys Falcon 9 Launch
    By Jeff Foust, September 30, 2015

    The launch is currently scheduled for the second half of 2017 from VAFB and was reported to be 80% booked with 20 payloads.

  • Hi Tim, here’s our clarification that we hope is helpful…

    It’s true that Moon Express has signed a contract for three launches with Rocket Lab (actually 5, two of which are options… and of the first 3 launches, 2 are manifested for 2017). These launches of course go beyond the GLXP and evidence our commitment to build an ongoing commercial lunar business, not just win a prize or perform a stunt.

    But we have NOT (yet) submitted our Notification of Launch Contract to the XPRIZE Foundation for verification under the Google Lunar X PRIZE. We were in mid-stride to do so when we learned the news that emerged this week that another GLXP team (SpaceIL) had already gone through this verification process to trigger the extension of the competition to 2017. Given this has occurred, all other teams have until the end of 2016 to submit a Notification of Launch Contract.

    So the pressure is off for us to do so in support of the competition at the moment, and given many competitive and proprietary disclosures that are requested under the Notice & verification process that impact not just Moon Express but our customers outside the GLXP, it’s not clear that it’s in our interest at this time to submit an official Notice of Launch Contract. This is not our final decision and we may change our mind, and we of course intend to do so before the end of 2016 as our agreement with our XPF/Google customer requires.

  • For clarification that we have NOT (yet) submitted our Notification of Launch Contract to the XPRIZE Foundation for verification under the Google Lunar X PRIZE, please see our reply to TimR above.

    Please note that the GLXP is a “verification” process that a bona fide contract between a launch provider and a team has been executed, but it is not a “validation” process to pass judgement on the risk of the contract. XPRIZE uses a number of verification tests, such as whether an exchange of funds has taken place. We support a rigid filter to determine actual contracts from, let’s say, “marketing” claims or publicity stunts.

    As reported on NASAWatch & SpaceRef, Chanda Gonzales, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPRIZE said on the contract issue “Our decision is based on a holistic assessment of whether the launch contract is genuine, whether there are any legal issues that might pop up, whether there are any obvious non-compliances with the rules, and whether a substantial commitment was made by both the team and the launch provider (e.g. non-refundable deposit of some certain minimum value).”

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2015/10/google-lunar-x-4.html

  • TimR

    Thanks. I would suspect that this will be the course of action for all other competitors. So it may be EOY 2016 when we see a rash of confirmed contracts.

  • Our “microwave oven” payload capability is approximately 10kg.. the actual dry mass of the lander itself is more like a Golden Retriever.. although we’d never mix microwave ovens and Golden Retrievers..

  • Perhaps, but we expect there would be growing evidence of viability prior to that. The trick beyond spending money on a launch contract is to actually design, build and test a lander capable of landing on the Moon and make it to the wedding on time (meaning the integration of the spacecraft to the launcher, which usually has a requirement of 3-6 months before the scheduled launch date).

  • Hug Doug

    That’s good to know! Thanks for taking the time to get this information out there.