Enlarge / An artist’s rendering of the Nova-C spacecraft on the lunar floor.

Intuitive Machines

A Houston-based firm that’s one in every of a number of US corporations constructing personal lunar landers, Intuitive Machines, says its three-meter-tall Nova-C lander is lastly able to take to the skies.

“Our Nova-C lander is totally constructed,” stated Steve Altemus, cofounder and chief govt of Intuitive Machines, in an earnings name on Monday. “We are going to ship a lunar lander able to go in September.”

Intuitive Machines is competing with different US corporations, together with Astrobotic and Firefly, for NASA-funded missions to ship science experiments and different payloads to the floor of the Moon. Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic had been formally awarded the primary of those “Industrial Lunar Payload Companies” contracts in Might 2019. Every of the businesses is operating a few years delayed in producing their landers, nevertheless.

Astrobotic introduced earlier this yr that its Peregrine lander was accomplished and prepared for its flight. Nonetheless, the spacecraft has not but been shipped from its manufacturing facility in Pittsburgh to the launch web site in Florida as a result of United Launch Alliance has not accomplished testing of its new Vulcan rocket. That mission, in keeping with sources, may launch as early as mid-December.

Intuitive Machines has been lagging a bit behind Astrobotic however now seems to have caught up. As a result of it has booked a journey on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Intuitive Machines has the benefit of a car that flies typically and reliably—SpaceX has already launched greater than 50 Falcon 9 rockets throughout this yr.

The Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines missions are part of a flurry of activity anticipated on the lunar floor throughout the subsequent a number of months.

The highway to launch

Through the earnings name, Altemus stated Intuitive Machines will conduct about two weeks of flight software program testing in Houston, adopted by electromagnetic interference assessments to make sure that spacecraft operations shouldn’t have an opposed impact on the car’s 5 NASA payloads or these for business clients. Lastly, there shall be a center-of-gravity measurement earlier than the Nova-C lander is shipped to the Florida launch web site in a single month.

Altemus stated pre-launch processing at SpaceX’s amenities at Kennedy House Middle, together with fueling the spacecraft and encapsulating it within the Falcon 9 rocket’s fairing, will take 35 days. This shall be adopted by a moist gown rehearsal after which the launch.

At present, the Intuitive Machines-1 mission has a launch slot reserved from November 15 by way of November 20 on board a Falcon 9 lifting off from Launch Complicated-39A at Kennedy House Middle. Nonetheless, Altemus acknowledged that schedule modifications are doable attributable to climate or if SpaceX has to launch higher-priority clients for the US army or NASA. If that is the case, the corporate has a backup window in December.

This mission is slated to land close to the South Pole of the Moon, and it will mark the primary time any US-led mission tried to land close to this polar area the place scientists imagine there could also be giant deposits of ice.

A publicly traded firm, Intuitive Machines reported $18 million in income throughout the second quarter of this yr, with an working lack of $13.2 million. The corporate has $39.1 million in money and money equivalents available. Altemus stated the agency’s a number of traces of enterprise—lunar landers, lunar knowledge companies, and in-space companies—are all demonstrating development. Intuitive Machines, he stated, is already nicely alongside in constructing its second Nova-C spacecraft for an additional NASA mission in 2024.

Intuitive Machines can be among the many bidders for a big NASA contract to supply a next-generation lunar rover for NASA as a part of its Artemis Program to discover the Moon.

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