Intuitive Machines has selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch the company’s Nova C lunar lander to the surface of the Moon in 2021. The mission is expected to be one of the first to fulfill a NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract.
According to an October 2 Intuitive Machines press release, the Houston-based company considered a number of proposals from various launch providers before ultimately choosing the SpaceX Falcon 9. Although a specific reason for the selection was not provided, a statement from the company’s President and CEO, Steve Altemus appeared to indicate cost had been a factor.
“SpaceX’s ability to make low-cost quality lunar transport is paramount to completing NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract and Intuitive Machines becoming the first commercial company to land on the Moon,” said Altemus.
The Nova C mission to the Moon is expected to be launched in July 2021 from the historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will transport 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of scientific instrumentation and cargo to Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), a dark spot on the western edge of the near side of the Moon. In addition to five NASA CLIPS payloads, the Nova C is expected to carry a number of additional payloads from other customers to fill out the full cargo capacity of the lander.
Intuitive Machines is one of nine companies that were awarded NASA CLPS program contracts. According to the agency, the aim of the program is to enable “a speedy return to the Moon” with a focus on advancing scientific and technical goals required for future human exploration. The nine contracts are indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts with a maximum combined award of $2.6 billion over the next decade.