Intuitive Machines Selects SpaceX To Launch Three Nova-C Lander Missions To The Moon

by Evelyn Arevalo August 10, 2021

Intuitive Machines Selects SpaceX To Launch Three Nova-C Lander Missions To The Moon

Intuitive Machines (IM), a company headquartered in Houston, Texas, manufactures autonomous systems, including drones and spacecraft. NASA awarded Intuitive Machines a $77 million Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract to carry payload aboard Universal Reentry Vehicle (URV) Nova-C landers. The company selected SpaceX to launch the landers towards the Moon atop Falcon 9 rockets. In January, Intuitive Machines announced that the first pair of lunar landers, designated IM-1 and IM-2, will launch atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. IM-1 was previously scheduled to launch in October 2021 but has now slipped to early 2022. The second lander for the IM-2 is set to be deployed by the fourth quarter of next year. Both landers will carry payload to the lunar surface for NASA’s CLPS program.

“Launching Nova-C on a [Falcon 9] rocket with a proven record of reliability and outstanding value is an assurance to NASA and our commercial payload customers that IM [Intuitive Machines] is dedicated to sticking the landing in back-to-back Moon missions,” Intuitive Machines’ President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Altemus, stated in a press release earlier this year. 

Today, August 10, the company announced it also selected Falcon 9 to launch its third Nova-C lander (IM-3) to the lunar surface. In a new statement, Altemus said that Intuitive Machines plans to launch landers annually. “We’re offering our customers more than lunar surface payload delivery and extreme surface mobility,” they said. “Our turnkey solution for delivering, communicating, and commanding customer payloads on and around the Moon is revolutionary. Now, we’re proving we can do it at an annual cadence.” The IM-3 mission is scheduled to launch in 2024. It will not carry NASA payload specifically, instead, Intuitive Machines is offering any organization the opportunity to purchase a ride aboard Nova-C to take payload to a destination on the Moon.

The Nova-C Lunar Lander features autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. The vehicle is capable of carrying around 220 pounds (100kg) of payload and uses solar panels to generate 200 W of power. Nova-C is capable of transmitting 24/7 data to Earth of the onboard payload. During the 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, also known as the Ocean of Storms. For the IM-3 mission, the lunar landing spot has not been decided.

The company said the IM-3 lander will be capable of carrying more payload mass than the first two landers. It “has excess capacity on the launch vehicle that accommodates 1000kg [2,200 lbs] of payloads on a rideshare dispenser ring that deploys into a lunar transfer orbit,” the company said. The “’rideshare’ option puts customers in a high-energy orbit to efficiently proceed to lunar capture, redirect to points elsewhere in high Earth orbit, or depart for destinations in the solar system,” Intuitive Machines said.


All Images Source: Intuitive Machines

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