A reboot of the computer from the Israeli lunar Beresheet Israeli forced the postponement of the first start of the mission to begin maneuvering closer to the moon, officials said Tuesday.
Mission officials said the robotic robot – seeking to become the first privately funded spacecraft to reach another planetary body – was automatically canceling an orbiting maneuver after an unexpectedly reset board computer. The engine firing was scheduled for Monday night, US time.
"During the pre-maneuver phase, the spacecraft computer was unexpectedly reset, resulting in the automatic cancellation of the maneuver," the team said in a statement. .
Beresheet – which means "in the beginning" or "genesis" in Hebrew – was launched on 21 February in Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, driven by the Indonesian Nusantara Satu communication payload and by the S5 spacecraft of the US Air Force to monitor satellite traffic in geostationary orbit.
The upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket released its payloads in an elliptical orbit up to 43,000 miles (over 69,000 km) above the Earth, with a perigee, or low point, below 200 miles of altitude.
While Nusantara Satu and the army's S5 space surveillance satellite are heading towards the geostationary orbit – located more than 22,000 km (36,000 km) above the equator – Beresheet is heading towards the moon, adopting a devious approach using 10 burns by the main engine of the LG, a reused communication satellite booster.
Beresheet was developed by SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit organization, created to promote the education of Israeli students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. SpaceIL raised funds from private donors to cover the nearly $ 100 million development costs of the Beresheet LG, with the primary goal of encouraging students to pursue a scientific and technical career.
A few minutes after its arrival in space, Beresheet radioed its status to ground controllers of the Israeli aerospace industries, who built the LG for SpaceIL. The four landing legs of the probe extended as expected soon after the separation of the rocket.
The ground crew found that the star followers of the landing gear, which the spacecraft needs to determine its orientation in space, exhibited a "great sensitivity to blindness due to the sun's rays".
Beresheet fired its 100 pound prime engine for the first time on Sunday in order to hoist the perigee from its orbit to an altitude of about 600 km (373 miles). The perigee climb maneuver lasted 30 seconds and went smoothly, according to SpaceIL.
But the LG computer reset Monday when it was no longer in communication with the ground crew, which led to the abandonment of the next engine stop, which was to prolong the peak of the orbit of Beresheet at nearly 117,000 kilometers from Earth.
The Monday fire was the first maneuver scheduled to bring Beresheet closer to the Moon, about 400,000 kilometers from the Earth.
"The SpaceIL and IAI engineering teams are reviewing the data and analyzing the situation. Right now, the spacecraft systems are working well, with the exception of the known problem of the stellar tracker, "SpaceIL said in a statement. "Communication between the control center and the spacecraft remains as expected and Beresheet continues its previous orbit until the next maneuver."
The Beresheet vessel was scheduled to enter the lunar orbit on April 4, then spiral down to a lower altitude for the purpose of landing on April 11 at Mare Serenitatis, one of the vast and dark plains of Dark lava located near the moon.
Beresheet undertakes a long and difficult journey to the moon to save money and gas. The mission would have needed a dedicated rocket to make a direct trip to the moon, an expense that the SpaceIL team could not afford.
Other missions had already made a long trip to the moon, including NASA's LADEE spacecraft, which launched in September 2013 and arrived on the moon a month later after several burns to boost its orbit farther from the Earth before it was captured. by lunar gravity /
One of the pitfalls of using a long path to reach the Moon is that the probe spends more time crossing radiation belts, donut-shaped rings of charged particles surrounding the Earth that could pose a hazard for spacecraft electronics. It was not clear right away if the radiation could have caused the Beresheet computer to reset itself on Monday.
Beresheet's original flight plan, called the five engine burns, positioned the probe near the moon on April 4, when a sixth engine running – with the help of lunar gravity – was intended to tip the probe in a lunar elliptical orbit. Additional engine fire was planned to lower Beresheet's altitude above the moon in a circular orbit, before the last braking maneuver before landing on 11 April.
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