In November 2018, Firefly Aerospace was selected by NASA to be part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. In order to meet the needs of NASA and our commercial customers as early as possible, and with the most proven commercially-available technology, we have partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). IAI made history in February 2018 when they launched the first ever commercial lunar mission with SpaceIL's Beresheet lunar lander. While a soft landing was not achieved for Beresheet, the mission achieved critical accomplishments to be leveraged on future missions, including:
- Proving out Falcon 9 rideshare integration with a GTO payload,
- Use of phasing orbits for launch & mission schedule flexibility,
- Survival through launch and lunar transfer environments, including transit through the Van Allen belts,
- Ranging precisely without the use of GPS,
- Successful lunar capture,
- Successful transfer to low lunar orbit,
- Validation of over 95% of the hardware & systems from TRL 8 to TRL 9, and
- Establishing a core team with expertise in building real lunar landers.
With these accomplishments and the lessons learned through the investigation of the initial landing attempt, we are confident that a soft landing will be achieved on the second mission. As others try to figure out how to get off the surface of the Earth, we are fine tuning our second lunar landing approach for a successful mission.
“Firefly is excited to partner with IAI in architecting a complete lunar science mission for NASA's CLPS initiative. IAI's culture of engineering innovation and bold vision make our partnership a perfect solution for America as the nation realizes its return to the moon,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic. “Our agreement with IAI will allow Firefly to build on their momentum and expand our lunar capabilities by creating a U.S. built version of their historic lunar lander. Having access to flight proven lunar lander technology and the expertise of lAI engineers makes Firefly well placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market.”
In homage to the first mission undertaken by Israel, we have named our lander “Genesis” – the English translation of Beresheet. Our engineering approach to the revised vehicle is simple:
- Nearly all components on Beresheet performed their functions as expected, and we will leverage their heritage.
- In some cases, despite the use of high-TRL components, the unknown unknowns caused problems, and IAI has made the appropriate upgrades to mitigate these problems for future missions.
- In addition, we will make some minor structural changes to better accommodate payload needs.
We feel that this basic approach provides the highest confidence solution available for lunar surface delivery. Fabricated primarily at our Austin, TX facilities, Genesis is a US-built vehicle informed by the extensive experience gained by IAI through decades of successful in-space missions.
Genesis first flight will be in Q4 2021.
Shea Ferring (Firefly Program Manager), Ehud Hayun (IAI, Space Division Systems Engineer), and Dr. Will Coogan (Firefly Chief Engineer) with the Beresheet structural model.
The Firefly and IAI team reviewing the consoles in the Beresheet Mission Operations Center.
IAI and SpaceIL engineers assembling, integrating, and testing Beresheet.
Beresheet’s legs deploying in orbit, with the Falcon 9 upper stage seen operating in the background.
As shown in this video, the Beresheet mission trajectory employs phased perigee burns to maximize both launch and mission flexibility.
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