Israeli lunar landing venture says it secures $70 million for 2024 launch

An unmanned spacecraft is seen during a presentation to the media by members of Israeli non-profit group SpaceIL and representatives from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), at the clean room of IAI's space division in Yehud, Israel December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

JERUSALEM, July 11 (Reuters) - An Israeli space group is on course to make its second attempt at an unmanned lunar landing in 2024 after securing $70 million in private funding for the mission.

The SpaceIL organisation said on Sunday that Patrick Drahi, a Franco-Israeli billionaire and controlling shareholder of Altice Europe (ALLVF.PK), would donate the funds along with SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn and South African businessman Martin Moshal.

Israel in December said it would try another unmanned lunar landing in early 2024 after its first attempt ended in 2019 with the dishwasher-sized Beresheet (Hebrew for Genesis) craft crashing due to what engineers described as a technical failure on final approach.

"I plan to do everything that is within my power to take Israel back to the moon," Kahn said.

The new project, named "Beresheet 2", will involve launching two landing craft and an orbiter that would circle the moon for years, conducting experiments and collecting data on behalf of school students.

The non-profit SpaceIL said the pledged funding comprises most of the $100 million cost of the project "and gives a high probability for meeting the 2024 launch timetable".

It said "Beresheet 2" planned to break several space records, including the double landing, with one of the craft setting down on the far side of the moon. Only China has carried out a far side soft landing, in 2019.

The two Israeli landing craft would be the smallest ever launched into space, with each weighing 120 kilograms (264.5 pounds) with fuel and 60 kgs without fuel.

During the mothership's five-year mission, it will serve as a platform for educational science activities in Israel and worldwide via a remote connection that will enable students to take part in deep-space scientific research, SpaceIL said.

SpaceIL is leading the project in collaboration with the Israeli Space Agency, Ministry of Science and Technology and Israel Aircraft Industries.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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