Tag Archives: Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines reveals details of lunar landing mission

Capitalism in space: Intuitive Machines (IM), one of a handful of private companies that NASA has awarded contracts to build lunar landers of the agency’s science instruments, yesterday revealed the landing site and launch date of its first mission to the Moon.

IM will launch the Nova-C lander in October 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The target landing site is Vallis Schröteri (Schröter’s Valley) in the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms). The company said the site is “flat, free of craters and rocks, and has abundant sunlight” throughout the 14-day mission.

Five NASA payloads and others from commercial customers will be aboard, but IM did not specify what they are. Nova-C can take 100 kilograms to the lunar surface and provide 200 watts of power. Nova-C is based on NASA’s Project M lunar lander and Project Morpheus, which were designed, developed and tested by Johnson Space Center to demonstrate planetary landing technologies. The core team that developed Morpheus left government and founded IM.

Because the lander belongs to Intuitive Machines, not NASA, they have the right to sell their spare payload space to others, increasing their profits above what NASA will pay them. This shifts control of the mission from NASA to the private company, and in the long run will encourage the development of a private unmanned lunar landing industry.

Nor is IM alone in this. NASA has purchased landers from Astrobotics and Masten, with Astrobotics aiming for a 2021 landing and Masten in 2022. Both also have spare payload space, and are offering this to others.

I expect at a minimum some universities will make a deal. Rather than have their students build an orbiting cubesat for training and education, now they can have them build a science instrument that will land on the Moon.

SpaceX wins launch contract for NASA privately-built lunar lander

Intuitive Machines, one of the three companies awarded NASA contracts to build unmanned lunar landers, has awarded SpaceX the launch contract for its planned 2021 mission.

The Houston-based company’s first robotic Nova-C lander will carry up to 220 pounds, or 100 kilograms, of payloads to the moon’s surface. Launch and landing are scheduled for July 2021, according to Trent Martin, vice president of aerospace systems at Intuitive Machines.

Intuitive Machines previously stated plans to launch the first Nova-C mission on a SpaceX rocket, but Martin said in an interview Wednesday that the company held a “fully open competition” among multiple launch service providers before signing a contract for a Falcon 9 launch.

In a statement, Intuitive Machines said it “ultimately selected SpaceX for its proven record of reliability and outstanding value.” The company said the Nova-C mission will take off from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. [emphasis mine]

That “outstanding value” almost certainly was the lowest price by far offered by any rocket company, a reality that continues to bring SpaceX business while taking market share from everyone else.