New Launch Date for Lunar Lander: Intuitive Machines and SpaceX Delayed to February

Intuitive Machines is pushing back the mission of its first lunar lander to mid-February in coordination with launch provider SpaceX, the company said earlier this week. The lunar lander must launch from a specific launch site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A, because it needs to be fueled with oxygen and methane propellants prior to launch. While Intuitive Machines did not specify an exact launch window, it’s looking increasingly likely that it could coincide with the planned landing of another privately developed lunar lander. Overall, the new launch window is a negligible delay for Intuitive Machines, which is aiming to make lunar access a cornerstone of its business. Intuitive Machines is also setting up business segments related to orbital services, like satellite servicing and refueling, providing data services for the moon, and the sale of other space products.

Intuitive Machines Delays First Lunar Lander Launch to Mid-February

The highly anticipated first lunar lander mission from Intuitive Machines has been pushed back to mid-February, as the company collaborates with SpaceX, their chosen launch provider. The delay was announced earlier this week, after unfavorable weather conditions caused a shift in the SpaceX launch schedule.

The new target launch date is now a full month after the originally scheduled January 12-16 window. This is due to the specific mission profile of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C spacecraft, which aims to land near the lunar south pole. The unique lighting conditions required for this landing are only present a few days each month, limiting the launch window.

The company is also constrained by the availability of launch infrastructure. The lunar lander must launch from NASA’s Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, which is the only site equipped to fuel the lander with oxygen and methane prior to launch. This is essential for the successful landing of the Nova-C spacecraft, as it requires a direct trajectory to reach lunar orbit.

Originally, the lander was set to touch down on the moon around January 19, but with the new launch window set for mid-February, it may coincide with another private lunar lander’s planned landing. Astrobotic’s Peregrine is targeting a February 23 landing date on the moon, which means there could be two privately developed American spacecraft touching down on the lunar surface in the same week.

Both the Nova-C and Peregrine landers were developed as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which aims to solicit commercial landers for scientific and research payload delivery to the lunar surface. Nova-C will be carrying six payloads for NASA on this initial mission and has also been awarded two additional contracts with CLPS for lunar cargo delivery.

Despite the delay, this is a minimal setback for Intuitive Machines, as they continue to make lunar access a cornerstone of their business. According to a presentation released last September, the company expects to generate a staggering $279 million in revenue from their lander services next year alone. Intuitive Machines is also branching out into orbital services, including satellite servicing and refueling, providing data services for the moon, and selling other space products.

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Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

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