A bumpy trip to the moon: an Israeli spacecraft comes up against a technical problem – Science & Health


Genesis ("Beresheet" in Hebrew), the first Israeli spacecraft en route to the moon, has some complications. After the launch on Friday morning, engineers at SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries discovered that the sensors on the boats needed for navigation were too sensitive to sunlight. They discovered Monday another problem with the robotic robot, which could delay its arrival on the moon.

Between Monday and Tuesday, around midnight, Genesis was scheduled to do another maneuver to increase the radius of its orbit around the Earth. The maneuver was to be performed automatically while the spacecraft was in a region of the sky where it would not be in contact with its ground controllers. But while the preparations for the maneuver were underway, the Space Shuttle computer itself proceeded to an unexpected restart. The restart canceled the maneuver and continued on its original orbit. Genesis operations engineers analyze the data and try to understand the cause of the restart and its consequences.

Beresheet on the way to the moon

Whenever Genesis completes an orbit, it executes another maneuver, designed to move it further away from Earth, running its engines for three minutes. Thus it will eventually reach the moon, with orbits further and further away from the Earth on a trajectory resembling an elliptical spiral. The advantage of this method, which is based on gravitational attraction of the Earth, is that it saves fuel. Missing a maneuver means postponing the Genesis moon landing.

Genesis was built privately by the non-profit group SpaceIL in cooperation with Israel Aeronautics Industries. SpaceIL's CEO, Ido Anteby, told reporters during a conference call that before starting the maneuver, Genesis systems perform an orientation move and calibrate the navigation systems. "At this point, the shuttle computer has performed an independent reset. The maneuver was canceled, "he said.

Once the engineers have understood the cause of the problem with the computer, they will decide when to try to repeat the maneuver, said Anteby. Opher Doron, head of the IAI's space division, said he was not particularly worried at the moment: "The sooner we understand what has happened, we can prevent the problem from happening again. "

The panning of the orbital maneuvers included a number of days late. If the problem is solved within the next two days, the spacecraft will be able to reach the Moon according to the initial schedule, both have indicated.

The maneuver is not the first failure encountered by Genesis: the first problem involved one of the positioning systems, called follower stars. These are sensors that locate the stars around the probe to determine its location. After the launch, it became clear that trackers are more sensitive than expected to sunlight, which could complicate the detection of other stars. Right now, star followers are focused on areas of the sky where sunlight does not interfere, and Doron explained that it's possible this change is related to the unexpected restart of the computer's computer. spacecraft.

Genesis was successfully launched late Thursday night in Cape Canaveral. After 33 minutes, he broke away from the rocket and began circling the earth. It should land on the moon on April 11 and would be the smallest vehicle to get there. Yariv Bash, one of the founders of SpaceIL, said that "the launch was cool, but the difficult part is ahead of us".

It will travel 6.5 million kilometers, the longest trajectory of any spacecraft passed from Earth to the Moon. The price of $ 100 million is significantly lower than previous shipments. If successful, Israel will be the fourth country to land on the moon.

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