Intuitive Machines, 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 build and launch a pair of lunar landers within the next 3 years.
Today, January 13th, Intuitive Machines announced it selected SpaceX to launch its Nova-C landers to the Moon atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The first lunar lander, designated IM-1, is scheduled for launch as soon as October 2021 and the second lander for the IM-2 Polar Mission is set to be deployed no earlier than 2022. “Signing with SpaceX for our IM-2 Polar Mission, our second scheduled lunar landing, is more than affordable quality lunar transport,” Intuitive Machines’ President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Altemus, stated in a press release. “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,” he said.
"We’re honored to launch Intuitive Machines’ important missions to the lunar surface,” the SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero stated. “These missions, in partnership with NASA, will help further the goal of extending humanity’s reach beyond Earth.”
The Nova-C Lunar Lander is a tall hexagonal cylinder with 6 landing legs and uses liquid methane as fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer to propel. The vehicle is capable of carrying 200 pounds of payload and uses solar panels to generate 200 W of power. Nova-C will carry NASA payloads that will serve future astronauts explore the Moon's surface. 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.
Nova-C will be equipped with advanced cameras and will feature the capability to transmit data to researchers on Earth. Intuitive Machine’s CEO also shared today that NASA is helping the company grow – “Our Lunar Payload and Data Service (LPDS) program matures with each [NASA] awarded mission to the Moon,” said Altemus. “That maturity is essential for creating a reliable and repeatable lunar landing service that brings us closer to sustained lunar exploration and development.”
All Images Source: Intuitive Machines