News Briefs – April 15, 2019

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Virgin Orbit satellite-launching plane to take off from Guam

A company owned by British billionaire Richard Branson is picking Guam as a site for its airplane-launched satellite service.
Virgin Orbit plans to launch small satellites from a rocket released by a customized Boeing 747. It has another site in California.
The company said April 11 the U.S. Air Force will allow it to take off from the U.S. territory’s Anderson Air Force Base. Guam’s international airport is seeking a Federal Aviation Administration license to host launches.
Payloads will weigh up to 1,000 pounds and orbit the equator at an altitude of about 310 miles.
The satellites will be for communications, research and other uses. The U.S. military is expected to be a customer.
Late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen started a company that will perform similar launches. AP
 

Israeli spacecraft crashes in attempt to land on moon

An Israeli spacecraft crashed into the moon just moments before touchdown, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history April 11 as the first privately funded lunar landing.
The spacecraft lost communication with ground control during its final descent. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.
“We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon,” said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.
He said the spacecraft’s engine turned off shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause. The spacecraft, called Beresheet, was in pieces scattered at the landing site, he said.
Doron nonetheless called the mission an “amazing success,” for reaching the moon and coming so close to landing successfully.
“It is by far the smallest, cheapest spacecraft ever to get to the moon,” he said. Beresheet was about the size of a washing machine.
The mishap occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television.
“We will try again,” Netanyahu said. “We reached the moon, but we want to land more comfortably, and that is for the next time.”