An Israeli-built moon lander aiming to become the first privately-funded mission reach another planetary body rocketed away from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, riding piggyback with an Indonesian communications spacecraft and an experimental U.S. Air Force space surveillance microsatellite.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 8:45 p.m. EST Thursday (0145 GMT Friday) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The commercial launcher, featuring a reused first stage booster flying for the third time, hauled into orbit Indonesia’s Nusantara Satu communications satellite, the Beresheet lunar lander for SpaceIL, and the S5 space surveillance payload for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
A powerful European Ariane 5 rocket blasted off from French Guiana late Friday and boosted a pair of satellites into space for a seven-year plunge into the inner solar system, a voyage requiring seven planetary flybys to slow down enough in the sun’s gravitational clutches to slip into orbit around hellish Mercury.
The launch of five commercial Iridium message relay satellites and a pair of U.S.-German orbiting geophysics probes on a Falcon 9 rocket from California has been delayed three days to May 22, and a week-long schedule slip to May 31 is expected for the next SpaceX flight from Cape Canaveral with an SES communications payload.