Intuitive Machines’ private lander headed towards Moon’s south pole

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission at 1:05 a.m. EST (06:05 UTC) on Thursday, February 15, 2024, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Liftoff of Intuitive Machines' IM-1 mission
Liftoff of Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (Image credit: NASA TV)

About 48 minutes after liftoff, at around 1:53 a.m. EST, the rocket’s second stage successfully deployed the mission’s Nova-C class lunar lander, named Odysseus, to a lunar transfer orbit.

Now, the Odysseus lander is on its way to the moon’s south pole, and if all goes according to plan, it is expected to land on the lunar surface on Thursday, February 22, 2024.

The lander’s propulsion engine has been successfully powered on, and its communication with the mission control room has been established.

The lander uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen as propellants, and the top speed of the propulsion engine is 11 km/sec.  

IM-1 is the first moon landing mission for the US private company Intuitive Machines. If the mission is successful, then Intuitive Machines will become the first private company to land softly on the lunar surface.

Not only that, if the mission is successful, then it would become the first US moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. 

Artist's Illustration of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C class lunar lander, called Odysseus
Artist’s Illustration of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C class lunar lander, called Odysseus. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

The Odysseus lander weighs 675 kilograms and stands 4.3 meters tall. It is primarily made of carbon fiber and titanium.

Nova-C is the vehicle classification of Intuitive Machines. The maximum payload capacity of the Odysseus lander is 130 kg. Here, Nova means new, and C is the Roman numeral for 100.

The mission’s Odysseus lander will land near the Malapert A crater in the South Pole region. This landing site is about 300 km from the moon’s south pole.

The lander is carrying a total of 12 payloads to the lunar surface, including six NASA payloads and six payloads from other U.S. companies and universities.

The duration of the mission is one lunar day, i.e., 14 Earth days, because the mission completely depends on solar power. 

This mission is a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and is the second mission under CLPS.

NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative will deliver science and technology to the lunar surface for NASA’s Artemis program.

For this reason, NASA awarded contracts to several US companies that will deliver scientific payloads to the lunar surface for NASA.

NASA will send astronauts and establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface in the late 2020s, again after the 1970s, through its advanced human exploration missions called the Artemis program.

Please remember that Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One was the first mission under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. This mission, which carried five NASA payloads, failed due to a propellant (fuel) leak from the propulsion system of the spacecraft.

The other two missions (IM-2 and IM-3) of Intuitive Machines under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative will be launched later in 2024 (date is not scheduled yet).

Watch the launch of the IM-1 mission if you missed it:

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About the Author

Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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