SpaceX is gearing up to launch the private moon lander developed by Intuitive Machines, scheduled for liftoff in February.
Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander is poised for a historic mission, set to launch in mid-February aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. While the specific launch window remains undisclosed, the robotic spacecraft achieved a significant milestone as it was recently enclosed within the payload fairing.
Trent Martin, Vice President for Space Systems at Intuitive Machines, shared the emotional moment, stating, “As our teams sealed the fairing, I witnessed the lunar lander for the last time on Earth.” The launch is scheduled from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast, with a three-day window in mid-February. Though exact dates are yet to be revealed, Martin confirmed that Nova-C’s lunar landing attempt is slated for Feb. 22, regardless of the specific launch day.
In case of any delays in February, a backup opportunity is scheduled for March. The mission, named IM-1, targets the Malapert A impact crater near the moon’s south pole, an area of immense interest for its suspected abundance of water ice.
Nova-C, or Odysseus as it’s named, will carry six NASA science instruments under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. This collaboration aims to utilize private robotic landers to gather critical science data, aligning with NASA’s Artemis program for sustained human lunar exploration.
NASA’s instruments on Odysseus include a laser-based descent and landing sensor, a high-detail camera system capturing the lunar touchdown plume, and an innovative “space-age fuel gauge” utilizing sensors for precise propellant measurement in the moon’s microgravity.
Odysseus will host six commercial payloads, showcasing the versatility of private lunar missions. Successful deployment would mark Nova-C as the first private spacecraft to achieve a lunar landing, contributing to a series of recent lunar milestones, including Japan’s SLIM lander.