The Spanish space and satellite engineering firm IberEspacio announced this week that it delivered the skeleton of the spacecraft the Israeli SpaceIL team is producing in its race to win Google’s Lunar $20 million XPRIZE for the first group to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon without governmental funding.
Israel’s SpaceIL was founded by three young engineers, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub. The chairman of the organization is entrepreneur and philanthropist, Morris Kahn, who is also a major donor.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is building the actual spacecraft. Proceeds from the award – if SpaceIL wins it – will be used to advance science and technology education in Israel.
The other XPRIZE finalists are Moon Express (United States), TeamIndus (India), Hakuto (Japan) and Synergy Moon (an international consortium).
IberEspacio worked for a year to produce the upper and lower panels, which will contain the propulsion system and all the electronic equipment, as well as the docking ring with the rocket launcher. The carbon fiber struts to be used in the spacecraft are being supplied by a Danish company.
IberEspacio general manager Alejandro Torres said that “participating in a pioneering and ambitious mission like SpaceIL … is a source of pride for our company. … We are very grateful to SpaceIL and IAI for the trust they have placed in us.”
The SpaceIL craft weighs less than 25 kilograms yet must be sturdy enough to withstand the strong vibrations from the launch and the impact on the moon.
Teams at SpaceIL and IAI will now enter the assembly and integration phase. The launch is expected to take place in 2018 on a rocket from Elon Musk’s private space transport company, SpaceX.