Hawthorne’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, and its Falcon 9 rocket launcher could have a role in helping to send the first privately-funded space team to the moon.
SpaceIL, a nonprofit team of engineers and entrepreneurs based out of Israel’s Tel Aviv University, have bought launch services on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and is the first team in a Google Inc.-sponsored $30 million moon-landing competition to submit a verified launch contract.
Under the Google Lunar XPrize competition, a privately-funded team must land on the moon, explore at least 500 meters of the surface and send back high-definition video and still images to Earth before Dec. 31, 2017. Teams have until the end of 2016 to announce a verified launch contract to remain in the competition.
SpaceIL was formed in 2010 to build a spacecraft that would be the first from Israel to land on the moon. Its mission is scheduled for the second half of 2017.
“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union and China,” said SpaceIL Chief Executive Eran Privman. “Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list looks more promising than ever.”
SpaceIL received funding for the launch agreement through a round led by the team’s two major contributors, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation and Morris Kahn’s Kahn Foundation. Prior funding helped establish the team and start the engineering designs, the team said.
The Google Lunar XPrize started in 2007 as a competition for privately-funded teams to develop low-cost robotic space exploration. The first team to complete the mission will receive $20 million and the second team will win $5 million. Teams must have 90 percent funding from private sources.
The Google Lunar XPrize is overseen by a board of trustees including SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk; Google co-founder Larry Page; Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group and movie producer James Cameron.
Culver City-based nonprofit Xprize Foundation operates global incentive competitions that are sponsored by corporations, philanthropists and public charities.
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