Intuitive Machines, a space manufacturer headquartered in Houston, Texas, selected SpaceX to launch its robotic Nova-C landers towards the Moon. The company signed a contract with SpaceX to launch three Nova-C lunar lander missions with a Falcon 9 rocket. Nova-C will land on the Moon carrying NASA payloads that will investigate the surface. Nova-C will demonstrate its autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. The vehicle is capable of carrying around 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of payload, uses solar panels to generate 200W of power, and will be capable of transmitting 24/7 data to scientists on Earth. During the first Intuitive Machines (IM-1) mission, Nova-C will land near a deep narrow valley named Vallis Schröteri. The IM-2 mission will land the second Nova-C lander on a flat area on the Moon, near Vallis Schröteri, in a region named Oceanus Procellarum. The lunar landing spot for the IM-3 mission will be a mysterious area on the lunar surface called Reiner Gamma.
AstroForge’s asteroid-mining 'Brokkr-2' spacecraft will hitch-a-ride on the second Intuitive Machines' mission (IM-2). AstroForge is a United Kingdom startup that aims to become “the first and most efficient asteroid mining company in the world.” The company paid Intuitive Machines' to share the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. AstroForge also partnered with in-orbit service provider OrbAstro (Orbital Astronautics) for the first mission. “During this mission, we will demonstrate our refinery capabilities with the goal of validating our technology and performing extractions in zero gravity. The spacecraft will launch pre-loaded with an asteroid-like material that the refinery payload will vaporize and sort into its elemental components,” shared AstroForge in a press release this week. “The second mission will take place in October 2023 on a SpaceX lunar rideshare with Intuitive Machines, again partnering with OrbAstro as well as in-space propulsion company Dawn Aerospace. We’ll head to deep space to observe our target asteroid in preparation for our first retrieval mission,” they shared.
“Our first deep space mission places AstroForge on an accelerated path to make asteroid mining a realistic and near-term solution to preserving Earth's declining resources and protecting the environment from the harmful waste produced by the mining industry," said AstroForge Co-Founder and CEO Matt Gialich. "Intuitive Machines' cost-effective rideshare makes opportunities like this possible, and it's the perfect example of the emerging cislunar economy.”
AstroForge’s asteroid-asteroid-mining spacecraft will ride to space on Intuitive Machines’ Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) that is designed to attach Brokkr-2 underneath the Nova-C lunar lander inside the Falcon 9 rocket. When Falcon 9 opens its payload fairing to release Nova-C to orbit, Brokkr-2 will be released as shown in the render below. This provides a low-cost rideshare opportunity by taking advantage of the rocket’s excess capacity and spare space.
"AstroForge's pursuit of mining asteroids to preserve Earth's resources is a pursuit humanity can undertake with hope," stated Peter McGrath, Vice President of Business Development of Intuitive Machines. "Ambitious missions like AstroForge's will require a responsive and reliable path millions of miles beyond the Moon on the way to asteroids. Intuitive Machines is honored to provide a solution to transport Brokkr-2 into deep space to observe one of AstroForge's target asteroids in advance of missions that could benefit us all as well as future generations.”
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Featured Image Source: Intuitive Machines
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.