Israeli company SpaceIL announced Wednesday that it had signed a launch contract for a lunar module, with take-off slated for the second half of 2017.
This makes the company the first competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize to produce a verified contract.
“The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated,” said Bob Weiss, president and vice chairman of the X Prize, at a press conference in Jerusalem. “It gives all of us at X Prize and Google the great pride to say, ‘The new space race is on!’”
Weiss added that the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to present their own verified contracts.
The prize, a competition among private ventures to send a robot to the moon, offers $20 million to the first team to land a module—which must travel at least 500 meters and send high-definition video and images back to Earth—on the lunar surface by the deadline at the end of 2017.
Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries will provide the launch services, using a Falcon 9 rocket purchased from SpaceX.
“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.