The Moon’s landscape. 

On Wed., Oct. 7., an Israeli team participating in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition became the first team to produce a verified launch contract.

According to a recent press release, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, SpaceIL announced the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher has a mission scheduled for the second half of 2017.

With this, SpaceIL became the first team to produce a verified launch contract in the $30 million competition to put a privately-funded rover on the moon.

At least one team was expected to have a launch contract in place by the end of the year for the competition to continue.

Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, made the following statement in a press release:

“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. 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 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts. It gives all of us at XPRIZE and Google the great pride to say, ‘the new space race is on!’”

To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017.

SpaceIL has purchased launch services from Spaceflight Industries; an American space company who recently purchased a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and will manifest SpaceIL’s spacecraft as a co-lead spot, which will sit in a designated capsule inside the launcher, among a cluster of secondary payloads. Once the capsule separates from the launcher, it will automatically release the spacecraft, 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.

SpaceIL also unveiled a new and improved design of its spacecraft, completed by SpaceIL engineers with consultation from world-renowned Israeli industrial designer, Alex Padwa, regarding the spacecraft’s exterior.  The first physical components of the new model are already starting to arrive at the SpaceIL integration lab.