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A portion of the team (Yanki Margalit, Shimon Peres, and Yariv Bash) in December 2011 (left) and a model of the SpaceIL spacecraft, called Sparrow, was presented at the 66th IAC in October 2015

SpaceIL[1] is an Israeli organization, established in 2011, that was competing in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) to land a spacecraft on the Moon.[2] The contest declared no winner, but SpaceIL still aims to launch the spacecraft in 2019.[3]

SpaceIL team was formed as a nonprofit organization wishing to promote scientific and technological education in Israel.[4] Its total budget is estimated at US$70 million, provided mainly by philanthropists and the Israel Space Agency (ISA).


Artist's concept of Sparrow on the lunar surface

SpaceIL began as part of the Google Lunar X Prize, which offered $30m (£23m) in prizes to inspire people to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. The entry was unique among GLXP contenders, in that instead of building a tracked or wheeled rover, SpaceIL planned to meet the requirement to travel 500 meters on the lunar surface by having the lander "hop" from its landing site to another site 500 meters away using rocket propulsion.[5][6]

In April 2014, American philanthropist Sheldon Adelson donated US$16.4 million to the project,[7] and in June 2017, the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) announced a donation of additional 7.5 million NIS, after having donated 2 million NIS in previous years.[8]

In August 2017, Google Lunar Xprizes announced an extension of the deadline to 31 March 2018.[9][10] The contest ended without a winner,[11] but SpaceIL still plans on launching the mission.

In November 2017, SpaceIL announced they need $30M to finish the project. Morris Kahn resigned from chairing the board, and promised $10M if the organization can raise the additional $20M.[12] The current CEO is Ido Anteby, and the President of SpaceIL remains Morris Kahn.[13] As of July 2018, the project has cost approximately $95 million.[13]

Founders and supporters[edit]

The founders of the team are: Yariv Bash, former electronics and computer engineer in the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and currently Flytrex CEO; Kfir Damari, a Computer Networking lecturer; and Yonatan Winetraub, formerly a satellite systems engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries, and currently a biophysics PhD Candidate at Stanford. Morris Kahn is the President the board [14] and donor of $27 million to the project.[13]

The team has technical support from the Israel Space Agency (ISA), Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Systems and Elbit Systems. SpaceIL is also supported by educational institutions, including the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Weizmann Institute of Science and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.[15] SpaceIL has over 200 members, 95% of them are volunteers. By 2017, SpaceIL volunteers reached over 250,000 pupils all around Israel.

The founders of the team stated that if they had won the competition, the money would have been donated to educational purposes.[15]


Mission typeTechnology demonstrator
OperatorSpaceIL and Israel Space Agency
Mission durationplanned: 2 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerSpaceIL and Israel Space Agency
Launch mass585 kg
Dry mass150 kg
Start of mission
Launch date2019[3]
RocketFalcon 9
Moon lander

In October 2015, SpaceIL signed a contract for a launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 via Spaceflight Industries.[13][16] It will be launched as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9, whose primary payload is a commercial communications satellite.[17] The 585-kilogram lander is informally called Sparrow.[18] Once Sparrow is in Earth orbit and separated from the Falcon 9 launcher, and after several orbits around Earth, the spacecraft will slowly perform orbit raising. The orbit raising would take 2.5 month before reaching the Moon's area of influence. Once there, the spacecraft will perform manuevers to be captured in a Lunar orbit, and orbit around the Moon between two weeks and 1 month. In the right orbit around the landing site, it will decelerate until soft-landing on the lunar surface.[19]


By June 2017, the lander spacecraft was undergoing integration and testing.[8][13] Launch is scheduled for 2019.[3][20]

Sparrow lander[edit]


  1. ^ "Triumphing Challenges on The Way to the Moon - The Incredible Story of SpaceIL (interview with co-founder Kfir Damari on Startup Camel Podcast)". Startup Camel. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  2. ^ "One Giant Step for Israel as Company Plots Moon Launch". The Forward. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b c SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare launch to send a commercial lander to the Moon in 2019. Eric Ralph, Teslarati. 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ "SpaceIL | מנחיתים חללית ישראלית ראשונה על הירח". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  5. ^ "Israel slated to be 4th country to land vehicle on the moon – Israel Hayom". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  6. ^ "Israeli XPrize Mission Science Twist: Map Lunar Magnetism (Op-Ed)".
  7. ^ "Israel space project gets $16 million boost from casino mogul Adelson". Reuters. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  8. ^ a b "On the way to the Moon: the Ministry of science will increase the investment in SpaceIL (in Hebrew)". Ynet. June 29, 2017.
  9. ^ "Guidelines". Google Lunar XPRIZE. 2015-10-07. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  10. ^ "Google-sponsored private moon race delayed for the fourth time". New Scientist. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  11. ^ "Ex-Prize: Google's $30 Million Moon Race Ends with No Winner".
  12. ^ Yaron Drokman (November 23, 2017). "SpaceIL: If we don't raise enough money by January 2018, we will have to close the project (in Hebrew)". Ynet.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Winner, Stewart; Solomon, Shoshanna (10 July 2018). "Israeli spacecraft aims for historic moon landing… within months". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  14. ^ "To the moon and back". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  15. ^ a b SpaceIL still aims to launch עתידות: עד 2017 תנחת חללית ישראלית על הירח (By 2017, an Israeli spacecraft will land on the moon.) Haaretz, October 7, 2015
  16. ^ Google Lunar XPrize, 7 Oct 2015
  17. ^ SpaceIL making final fundraising push for lunar lander mission. Jeff Foust, SpaceNews. 14 December 2017.
  18. ^ An Israeli Moonshot. Lee Billings, Scientific American. 17 March2016.
  19. ^ "Recalculating Route: The plan of spacecraft's trajectory has been completed". SpaceIL. July 2018.
  20. ^ Ronel, Asaf (10 July 2018). "First Israeli Spacecraft to Head to Moon on Back of Elon Musk's SpaceX Rocket". Haaretz. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  21. ^ a b Israeli unmanned spacecraft to land on Moon in 2019. BBC News. July 2018.

External links[edit]