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There Are 2 Rocket Launches, a Moon Arrival and Asteroid Crash Today! Here's How to Watch

Update for 4 p.m. EDT: The Israeli moon lander Beresheet has successfully entered orbit around the moon. Also, an Arianespace Soyuz rocket launched four O3B satellites into orbit and NASA has test-fired its RS-25 rocket engine for the Space Launch System.

Update for 11 a.m. EDT: The Progress 72 cargo ship has successfully arrived at the space station.

Original story: If you love space (and we know you do), then today is going to be an epic day. 

There are no less than two rocket launches scheduled for today (April 4) along with one spacecraft docking, a lunar orbit arrival and an asteroid bombardment by Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft. And, of course, you can watch much of that space action on Space.com here. Here's a rundown of what to expect.

A morning launch and docking

The day begins early with the launch of an uncrewed Russian Progress 72 cargo ship (also known as 72P) by Russia's Roscosmos space agency. Liftoff is scheduled for  7:01 a.m. EDT (1101 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA's webcast will begin at 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV

Progress 72 is carrying about 3 tons of food, fuel and other vital supplies for the Expedition 59 astronaut crew living on the International Space Station. The spacecraft will make a super-fast trip to the station, making two orbits around Earth to arrive at its destination just over 3 hours after liftoff. 

Progress 72 is scheduled to dock itself at the station's Russian-built Pirs docking compartment at 10:25 a.m. EDT (1425 GMT). You can watch that event, too. NASA's live docking webcast will begin at 9:45 a.m. EDT (1345 GMT). 

Israel shoots for the moon

While Progress 72 chases the International Space Station, a small Israeli spacecraft will be chasing the moon. If all goes well, it will arrive at the moon at 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT), when it performs an engine maneuver to enter an elliptical lunar orbit. You'll be able to follow the event live via the mission's official Twitter: @TeamSpaceIL.

The 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) lander, called Beresheet, is Israel's first spacecraft ever launched toward the moon. It is also the world's first private lunar lander - it was built by Israel's SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI) for $100 million.

Beresheet launched toward the moon on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 21 and has been steadily raising its orbit around Earth in order to reach the moon. If Thursday's engine maneuver is a success, Beresheet continue refining its orbit until it is in place for a planned April 11 landing on the moon's Sea of Serenity. 

SpaceIL initially designed the Beresheet lander (it's name means "in the beginning," according to the team) as a contender for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) for private moon landers. That competition ended in 2018 without a winner.

Last week, GLXP contest organizer the X Prize Foundation announced that SpaceIL could still win a $1 million "MoonShot Award" if Beresheet successfully lands on the moon. 

A lunchtime launch

We're not done yet. Today's epic day of space continues with the scheduled 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) launch of an Arianespace Soyuz rocket carrying four O3b communications satellites into orbit for the satellite communications provider SES. Arianespace's launch webcast will begin about 20 minutes before launch, and you'll be able to watch it on Space.com, courtesy of the European launch provider. You can also watch it directly from Arianespace

The four O3b satellites will join 16 other satellites already in orbit for SES's growing constellation to provide video and data connectivity to customers on the ground. 

NASA SLS rocket engine test

At 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT), NASA will webcast the test of an RS-25 rocket engine, which will help power the space agency's Space Launch System megarocket for deep-space mission launches. 

The test will be conducted at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, which is home to much of the agency's rocket engine tests. 

Hayabusa2 creates asteroid crater

Finally, we get to the fireworks. Literally. 

Tonight, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will provide a live webcast at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 April 5 GMT) as the Hayabusa2 spacecraft fires a projectile at the asteroid Ryugu in order to create an artificial crater. The actual asteroid impact is scheduled for 10:36 p.m. EDT (0236 April 5 GMT).

As with all of Thursday's activities, you can watch JAXA's asteroid crash on Space.com. You can also watch directly from JAXA here.

Hayabusa2 is will crash its Small Carry-on Impactor into Ryugu in order to peer inside the space rock and get a glimpse at its composition. Hayabusa2 will release the impactor from a distance of about 1,640 feet (500 meters), then retreat to a safe zone behind Ryugu as the impactor crashes into the asteroid and kicks up massive amounts of debris.

Later, JAXA scientists hope to land Hayabusa2 at the crater site to study the impact site in more detail. Hayabusa2 has already dropped three small, hopping rovers on Ryugu and landed on the asteroid to collect its first sample. 

JAXA launched the $150 million Hayabusa2 mission in December 2014. The spacecraft is due to return to Earth in December of this year to return its samples to Earth. 

But wait, there's more!

As if rocket launches, lunar arrivals and asteroid blasts weren't enough, there's still more to track for space fans. 

NASA's Parker Solar Probe is on track to make its second close pass by the sun today when it reaches perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, for the second time. The spacecraft is on a daring mission to fly through the outermost regions of the sun's atmosphere, and has already survived one pass through the region on Nov. 5 of last year. 

In all, the spacecraft will make 24 close passes through the sun's atmosphere to help scientists better understand how our closest star works. 

Falcon Heavy static fire?

Finally, Spaceflight Now reports that the private spaceflight company SpaceX may test fire its second Falcon Heavy rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida today. The so-called static test fire is a standard SpaceX check if its rockets before each mission. 

While SpaceX has not officially revealed a launch date for the Falcon Heavy, some media reports have speculated that Sunday, April 7, may be an initial target. This mission will be SpaceX's second Falcon Heavy flight and the first to carry a commercial payload for a customer. The heavy-lift rocket will carry the hefty Arabsat 6A communications satellite into orbit for the Saudi Arabian company Arabsat.

Whew! That's a lot of space stuff all happening on the same day. Not since last year's potential "Day of Four Rocket Launches" have we been so excited. (Spoiler alert: All four launches were delayed.)

If even half of what's scheduled goes off as planned, today should be an exciting day in space. Visit Space.com throughout the day for complete coverage of the events!

Editor's note: This story was updated to include NASA's RS-25 rocket engine test. 

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.  

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