SpaceIL announced in Jerusalem on Thursday it had secured the contract for the launch of its lander on the Falcon 9 rocket into lower Earth orbit sometime in the second half of 2017, after which it will be carried further into space before propelling itself to a landing on the Moon.
SpaceIL’s securing of the first launch contract was announced by XPIZE vice chairman and president Bob Weiss alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
The Google Lunar XPRIZEcompetition challenges teams to land a rover on the surface of the moon, travel 500 metres and send back high-definition videos and images by December 31, 2017.
The first team to successfully put its rover on the moon would win a prize of $20 million and the second would get $5 million.
To remain in the running, teams have to produce a verified launch contract by the end of 2016.
“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Bob Weiss.
“The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately funded organisation, and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts. It gives all of us at XPRIZE and Google the great pride to say, ‘the new space race is on!”