Intuitive Machines announced on January 13 that it had selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 to carry its second mission to the Moon.
NASA selected the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander to deliver its Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) to the surface of the Moon in October 2020. The mission was the second the agency had awarded to Intuitive Machines as a part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
Intuitive Machines selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch its first mission to the Moon, EM-1 in October 2019. The company explained then that it had selected the vehicle as a result of its proven record of reliability and outstanding value.
On January 13, Intuitive Machines announced that it had also selected the Falcon 9 for its second NASA-sponsored mission to the Moon. In a press release, the company again pointed to the vehicle’s reliability and value as the deciding factors.
“Launching Nova-C on a rocket with a proven record of reliability and outstanding value is an assurance to NASA and our commercial payload customers that IM is dedicated to sticking the landing in back-to-back Moon missions,” said Intuitive Machines President and CEO, Steve Altemus.
Once launched in December 2022, the Nova-C lander carrying the PRIME-1 payload will touch down on the Moon’s South Pole. The mission is expected to be NASA’s first in-situ resource utilization demonstration on the Moon. The mission is designed to offer insight for follow-on robotic missions like VIPER, and upcoming crewed missions to the lunar surface as part of the agency’s Artemis program.
The NASA PRIME-1 payload will, however, not be the only one to hitch a ride to the lunar surface aboard the EM-2 Nova-C lander. The PRIME-1 payload is expected to account for approximately 40 kilograms of the vehicle’s 100-kilogram payload capacity. The remaining capacity will be occupied by commercial customers that have not yet been announced.
In addition to Intuitive Machines announcing January 13 it had selected the Falcon 9 to launch its IM-2 mission, MethaneSAT, a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund, announced the same day that it had selected the vehicle to carry a satellite that will study global methane emissions.
According to MethaneSAT, the satellite is currently under construction and is expected to be launched in October 2022.