Clear Lake aerospace company Intuitive Machines secures third moon contract award

With IM-3, Intuitive Machines will provide lunar delivery and operational support service for a 13.5-day duration. (Courtesy Intuitive Machines)
With IM-3, Intuitive Machines will provide lunar delivery and operational support service for a 13.5-day duration. (Courtesy Intuitive Machines)

With IM-3, Intuitive Machines will provide lunar delivery and operational support service for a 13.5-day duration. (Courtesy Intuitive Machines)

NASA has selected Intuitive Machines to deliver four science and technology demonstration payloads to Reiner Gamma, which is a feature on the moon, according to a Nov. 17 media release.

The Clear Lake aerospace company will deliver the payloads at a firm fixed price of $77.5 million. The payload delivery mission’s total weight is nearly 100 kilograms, per the release.

According to NASA, its Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative allows for the rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from companies in the United States. The services are used for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the moon.

Five CLPS missions to the lunar surface have been awarded, to take place over the next three years, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. With this announcement, Intuitive Machines has been awarded three of the missions.

The CLPS payloads will be incorporated into the IM-3 commercial mission and fly onboard a Nova-C lunar lander. IM-3 is the third mission in Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Payload and Data Services program, per the release.


“Every element of our LPDS program is mature and will be demonstrated on our IM-1 and IM-2 missions including the Nova-C lander, ground communications, mission operations, launch service and payload integration,” said Steve Altemus, Intuitive Machines president and CEO, in the release. “This win is another example of our commitment to help lay the foundation for a sustained long-term presence on the lunar surface.”

Nova-C originally was going to launch to the moon this year but is now scheduled to launch no earlier than 2022. It will deliver NASA payloads to the lunar surface, and the scientific data it gathers during its 13.5 days of life on the moon will help NASA land humans on the moon as early as 2024, the first time since the 1970s, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

IM-3 will build on the systems demonstrated in IM-1; IM-1 entails the delivery of six CLPS payloads and four commercial payloads to Oceanus Procellarum—another lunar feature—in the first quarter of 2022, per the release.

With IM-3, Intuitive Machines will provide lunar delivery and operational support service for 91.6 kilograms of CLPS payloads as well as 9.3 gigabytes per day of data over the 13.5-day duration of surface operations. This is done using the company’s Lunar Telemetry and Tracking Network and Nova Control, a Houston-based mission control center.

Intuitive Machines operates at the Houston Spaceport, where in 2023 it will transition to a 125,000-square-foot Lunar Operations Center.
By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.


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