Israeli non-profit SpaceIL said today that its lunar spacecraft, the first in Israel's history, is currently in advanced trial stages that test its ability to meet environmental conditions in space. The experiments are taking place at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) laboratories.
Meanwhile, SpaceIL announced a delay in launching the lunar craft because of factors unrelated to SpaceIL. The launch will take place in the beginning of 2019, a few weeks after the original planned launch date.
The lunar spacecraft, on which construction was finished a few weeks ago in IAI facilities, passed tests that ensure the effective integration of various systems. The spacecraft also passed a series of environmental experiments.
The experiments include simulating launch conditions, ensuring the spacecraft and technological functions work properly after the spacecraft disconnects from the rocket, and testing the durability of the spacecraft's landing legs.
The week began with an intricate experiment designed to test the spacecraft's temperature conditions and pressure in space. The experiment took place within a dedicated thermal vacuum chamber, part of the advanced infrastructure of IAI. This examination, which lasts about two weeks, will reveal vacuum conditions and ensure temperatures of the spacecraft are between -180° C to 70° C.
In addition to the progress of the spacecraft systems testing, validation and verification checks are carried out to check the function of the spacecraft in various scenarios during the mission. Since actual space conditions cannot be replicated, tests are carried out in part by a SpaceIL simulator that mimics space conditions and part on the spacecraft itself.
SpaceIL and Israel Space Agency recently announced that NASA will be helping SpaceIL improve its surveillance capability and communications with the spacecraft during and after the landing on the moon. As a part of the agreement, a retro-reflector from NASA will be installed on the spacecraft. This instrument reflects laser beams, that will enable NASA to precisely locate the spacecraft on the lunar surface after the landing.
Also, NASA will grant SpaceIL access to its Deep Space Network communication services, which is used by many ongoing deep space missions. The Deep Space Network is based on very large antennas in three sites around the globe, which will improve the communication of the spacecraft with the Earth.
SpaceIL, the Israel Space Agency and NASA also agreed that NASA will have access to data gathered by the magnetometer installed aboard the Israeli spacecraft. The instrument, which was developed in collaboration with Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, will measure the magnetic field on and above the landing site.
In addition, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which was launched almost a decade ago and currently orbits the Moon, will try to capture images of the Israeli spacecraft during its landing.