WASHINGTON — SpaceIL announced April 4 that its Beresheet spacecraft has entered orbit around the moon, setting the stage for a landing attempt in a week.
The lander fired its main engine for six minutes starting at 10:18 a.m. Eastern time, slowing the spacecraft down by about 1,000 kilometers per hour, enough for it to be captured into orbit around the moon. SpaceIL said in a statement that that maneuver went as expected, putting the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit with a perilune of 500 kilometers and apolune of 10,000 kilometers.
“After six weeks in space, we have succeeded in overcoming another critical stage by entering the moon’s gravity,” said Ido Anteby, chief executive of SpaceIL, in a statement. “We still have a long way until the lunar landing, but I’m convinced our team will complete the mission to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, making us all proud.”
Beresheet launched Feb. 21 as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which released the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit around the Earth. The spacecraft subsequently performed a series of maneuvers to raise the apogee of its orbit to more than 400,000 kilometers. That put the spacecraft ...