Israel’s first lunar lander crashed into the Moon’s surface in April, but the design of the doomed spacecraft may live on during future missions to the Moon. US company Firefly Aerospace announced that it is partnering with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to create a new lunar vehicle based on the crashed spacecraft’s blueprints. Firefly says this lander will build upon “lessons learned” from the accident to ensure that the new lander does not meet the same fate.
The lander that IAI built was called Beresheet, and if it had been successful, it would have been the first privately funded vehicle to touch down on the surface of the Moon. While Beresheet launched successfully and made it into lunar orbit, its landing was botched when the spacecraft’s main engine temporarily shut down during the descent to the surface. As a result, Beresheet came in too fast and slammed into the Moon rather than lightly setting itself down.
After the accident, the nonprofit that operated the lander, SpaceIL, vowed to send another lander to the Moon called Beresheet Shtayim, or Beresheet “Two.” But last month, SpaceIL ultimately decided to scrap the second Moonshot to focus on an undisclosed space mission.
Now, components of the Beresheet design are getting another chance at landing on the Moon. Firefly Aerospace is one of nine companies that NASA that was selected as part of the agency’s CLPS program — an initiative to send small robotic landers to the lunar surface. NASA recently picked three of the nine companies to send the very first spacecraft to the Moon for the program, but Firefly is still in the running and could be selected for upcoming missions.
If Firefly does mount a lunar mission, the company’s lander, called Genesis, will leverage much of the Beresheet design as well as the IAI team’s flight experience. “Firefly Aerospace is excited to partner with Israel Aerospace Industries to provide the only NASA CLPS program flight-proven lander design,” Shea Ferring, Firefly’s vice president of mission assurance, said in a statement. The name of the lander is also a nod to Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew.
Firefly declined to give additional details about Genesis, including how much payload it can carry and when it will fly for the first time, saying that information will be available in the near future. In fact, Firefly has yet to fly any rockets at all. The company was resurrected after going bankrupt in 2016 and is working toward the launch of its first small rocket called Alpha by the end of this year from California. The Genesis lander is designed to fly on another vehicle Firefly plans to build, called Beta, though that rocket does not have a target launch date yet.