SpaceX is launching the secret ZUMA project today. We know it is not a spy satellite. I think the secret is right beneath our noses. Forbes Article below from Oct 2015.

First Private Moon Mission Set For Blast-off In 2017

Brid-Aine Parnell , Contributor
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
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The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately-funded organization

The first private mission to the Moon plans to launch in just two years, as Israeli non-profit SpaceIL aims to win Google’s Lunar XPRIZE of $30m.

SpaceIL has become the first of the competition hopefuls to actually book a place on a launch to get its uncrewed rover on its way to a private soft landing on the Moon.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, the non-profit organisation said it had signed up with Spaceflight Industries, which recently bought a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to facilitate the ridesharing launches of small satellites.
Artist's impression of SpaceIL lander on the Moon

Artist's impression of SpaceIL's lander on the Moon. (Credit: SpaceIL/Google Lunar XPRIZE)

“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE.

“ The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately-funded organization , and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other fifteen teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts.”

Any private company that manages to land on the lunar surface will join the very short list of previous successes, which include the US, the former Soviet Union and China. If SpaceIL gets there first, it will be a double win, the first private organisation and the first Israeli mission.

To win Google’s XPRIZE though, the non-profit can’t just count on the landing. The mission will only be considered a success if SpaceIL’s craft manages to explore the surface for at least 500 metres and send high-res images and video back to Earth, before the deadline of December 31, 2017.

Unlike the more traditional rover design, SpaceIL is going with a “hop” manoeuvre to get its lander the requisite distance. Its lunar craft will land once and then use the remaining fuel in its tanks to take off again and hop the short 500m distance. Going down this route has helped the group, founded by three young engineers, to build a craft that’s smaller and relatively cheap.

“Last year we made significant strides toward landing on the moon, both in terms of project financing and in terms of the engineering design and now, we are thrilled to finally secure our launch agreement,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman.

“This takes us one huge step closer to realise our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM).”

SpaceIL has found over $50m in private money to finance its ambitions, including an additional round led by its major contributors, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation and Morris Kahn’s Kahn Foundation, which made the launch contract possible.

SpaceIL’s space-hopper will launch onboard Spaceflight Industries’ newly acquired Falcon 9 rocket, along with a number of other small satellites. The ‘2017 Sun Synch Express’, as the company calls it, is due for launch in the second half of the year to a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit.

Once the capsule containing SpaceIL’s craft and the other payloads separates from the launcher, it will automatically release the moon-bound ship, which will “use advanced navigation sensors to guide it to the lunar surface, with engineers in a mission control room standing by to remotely send commands and corrections as needed”, the organisation said.


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