Intuitive Machines Taps SpaceX For Lunar Launch

NASA will use its Falcon Heavy rocket for the mission.

A Falcon 9 rocket from Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will power a third lunar lander mission by Houston-based Intuitive Systems.

SpaceX provided Falcon 9 launch vehicles for Intutive Machines’ two previous lunar missions. The new project, which was announced Aug. 10, is expected in 2024.

Intuitive Machines has two missions planned in 2022, the IM-1 in the first quarter and the IM-2 in the fourth quarter.

Intuitive Machines was initially scheduled to launch the IM-3 in late 2021. However, SpaceX informed the company earlier this year that it could not meet the launch date.


The IM-3 mission will include a Nova-C class lander that will deliver 130kg of payloads on the moon’s surface.


The vessel will also include 1,000kg of payloads on a rideshare dispenser ring. According to the announcement, the dispenser ring can be jettisoned in the moon’s orbit where customers can pick it up.
Intuitive Machines said it can maneuver the ring to other locations in the lunar or be directed to other areas in the solar system.

“We’re offering our customers more than lunar surface payload delivery and extreme surface mobility,” Steve Altemus, president and chief executive of Intuitive Machines, said in a statement. “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 company plans to launch supply missions on a regular schedule, starting with the IM-1. The launches are conducted through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which allows an approved list of American companies to deliver supplies to the moon.


The CLPS initiative will be used to support NASA’s upcoming Artemis mission, which will see the first woman and person of color land on the moon.

The announcement by Intuitive Machines is the latest in a series of big moves for SpaceX.

On Aug. 6, the company agreed to a merger with Swarm Technologies, which designs small satellites used to manage Internet-of-Things systems. The deal made Swarm Technologies a wholly owned subsidiary of SpaceX.


The deal is expected to support SpaceX’s goal of establishing broadband internet around the globe, something that Swarm Technologies has been working on as well.


Also in August, SpaceX announced that it had landed a $178 million contract from NASA for a mission to Jupiter. The mission, called Europa Clipper, is scheduled for October 2024.

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