Investing in Space

SpaceX launches private Israeli moon mission, Indonesian satellite and Air Force test spacecraft

Key Points
  • SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday evening in what was the third successful mission for the company's rocket booster.
  • The main payload atop the Falcon 9 was the Nusantara Satu satellite, built by Maxar Technologies' SSL.
  • A secondary payload on board is a lunar lander which, if successful, would see Israel become the fourth country in history to land on the moon.

The second SpaceX launch of 2019 sent a hodgepodge trio of spacecraft into orbit, including an Israeli spacecraft that represents the first privately-funded lunar mission.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This was the third successful mission for the company's rocket booster, which launched two missions successfully last year before returning to land.

The main payload atop the Falcon 9 was the Nusantara Satu satellite, built by Maxar Technologies' SSL for an Asian satellite telecommunications company. The telecom satellite will serve Indonesia with services like internet connectivity, voice communications and video distribution.

Non-profit SpaceIL's "Beresheet" spacecraft is one of the secondary payloads that SpaceX launched. If successful, Beresheet's landing on the moon would see Israel become the fourth country in history to achieve the feat – behind the U.S., Russia and China. Beresheet will collect lunar data and deposit a time capsule that includes children's drawings, the Bible, and Israel's Declaration of Independence. At a cost of about $100 million, the low budget lander was backed by private donors, with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries involved as a partner. The SpaceIL project was initially a competitor in the Google Lunar Xprize but that race ended last March with no winners.

The final payload on board is a small experimental spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Called S5, the spacecraft will conduct a one-year mission.

This was the second time that SpaceX has launched and landed a Falcon 9 rocket three times. The company made history in December when it became the first company to fly the same orbital-class rocket three times. Reusing rockets is key to Elon Musk's space company, which hopes to make humanity "a multiplanetary species."

Last year SpaceX debuted the Falcon 9 Block 5: The most advanced version of the workhorse rocket. Each Falcon 9 Block 5 "is capable of at least 100 flights," Musk said in May.