Science/Tech

SpaceX-Assisted Private Moon Lander Suffers Glitch: Everything To Know

Ground operators have found a serious glitch on the world’s first commercial lunar lander a few days after the spacecraft’s launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceIL's Beresheet was scheduled for an engine burn to set up its elliptical orbit around Earth on Monday, but its computer unexpectedly rebooted itself, causing the spacecraft to automatically cancel the maneuver, Space.com reported Wednesday.

Beresheet's scheduled 3-minute engine fire would take the lander farther away from Earth and set its route to the moon. However, during the reset, operators said the spacecraft orbited the planet out of the communications range with the ground mission control center. 

"During the pre-maneuver phase the spacecraft computer reset unexpectedly, causing the maneuver to be automatically canceled," SpaceIL representatives said in a statement. 

The glitch came after the spacecraft suffered problems with its star trackers due to “high sensitivity to blinding by the sun's rays." But the first issue will not significantly affect the mission, according to SpaceIL.

The Beresheet lander’s systems already returned to normal functions, the company noted. But SpaceIL and partner operators will continue to analyze the issue that forced the spacecraft’s on-board computer to reset. 

"Communication between the control center and the spacecraft remains as planned, and Beresheet continues its previous orbit until the next maneuver," SpaceIL officials said. 

SpaceIL launched Beresheet on Feb. 21 and the spacecraft is expected to land on the Moon on April 11. The spacecraft made its first in-space maneuver on Sunday.

The Beresheet lander was built by SpaceIL in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries. The Israeli organization originally developed the spacecraft for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize.

The competition called on developers to build and launch a new robot to explore the Moon. However, Google Lunar ended in 2018 without a winner. 

Beresheet will spend two Earth days on the Moon to take photos and other measurements on the lunar surface. The spacecraft will also bring an Israeli flag, a time capsule, a "Lunar Library" that contains full English contents of Wikipedia and a laser retroreflector experiment for NASA.

SpaceIL is a non-profit founded in 2011 by three young engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub. They built the organization with the aim of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon.

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