Israeli lunar lander arrives at Cape Canaveral ahead of SpaceX launch

Liftoff slated for mid-February

After landing at Orlando International Airport, the spacecraft will then be driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Photo credit: Eliran Avital/SpaceIL)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The moon’s next robotic visitor arrived at Cape Canaveral this week from Israel in preparation for launch next month.

Nonprofit SpaceIL’s special cargo arrived in a custom temperature-controlled container at Orlando International Airport on Saturday before being driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft, named Beresheet, which means “in the beginning” in Hebrew, will liftoff for the moon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime next month. The spacecraft will first undergo final tests before launch. The Israeli mission is the secondary payload on the rocket ride-sharing with Indonesia’s geostationary communications satellite.

“After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft,” SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said. “Shipping the spacecraft to the United States is the first stage of a complicated and historic journey to the moon. This is the first of many exciting moments, as we look forward to the forthcoming launch in Cape Canaveral.”

SpaceIL was established in 2011 and funded by philanthropist Morris Kahn, who would later serve as SpaceIL’s president. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino business executive, is also an investor.

The nonprofit was a finalist in the international Google Lunar XPRIZE competition that would have awarded $20 million to the first privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the moon. The competition ended without a winner when Google stopped funding the race to the moon.

The launch is slated for no earlier than the second half of February. After launch, Beresheet will land on the northern hemisphere of the moon about two months later, where it will take measurements of the moon’s magnetic field.


SpaceIL officials hope the spacecraft's mission will inspire the next generation of space explorers in Israel and around the world.