Intuitive Machines had deliberate to launch its Nova-C lander on the IM-1 mission within the fourth quarter of this 12 months on a SpaceX Falcon 9, carrying a mix of economic and NASA payloads. A March 24 information launch about an settlement to make use of the Parkes radio telescope in Australia as a floor station for the mission talked about a launch “in the direction of the top of 2021.”
Nonetheless, in an April 23 application filed with the Federal Communications Commission to acquire S-band spectrum for the mission, Intuitive Machines stated that the lander was now scheduled for launch in early 2022. The corporate didn’t present a extra particular launch date or a cause for the delay in its FCC submitting.
Intuitive Machines spokesman Josh Marshall stated April 26 that the slip was brought on by its launch supplier. “SpaceX knowledgeable Intuitive Machines that as a consequence of distinctive mission necessities the earliest obtainable flight alternative is within the first quarter of 2022,” he advised SpaceNews.
Marshall referred questions concerning the “distinctive mission necessities” that brought on the delay to SpaceX. That firm didn’t reply to questions from SpaceNews on the subject.
The 1,908-kilogram Nova-C spacecraft will launch right into a supersynchronous switch orbit of 185 by 60,000 kilometers. Nineteen hours after launch it can perform a translunar injection maneuver to go to the moon, performing one other maneuver to enter a 100-kilometer lunar orbit. Nova-C will then try a touchdown at Mare Serenatis for a floor mission touchdown 14 days. Intuitive Machines stated within the submitting it can try to contact the solar-powered lander once more after the 14-day lunar evening, however acknowledged “is extremely probably that the NOVA-C won’t survive the lunar evening.”
Intuitive Machines’ utility with the FCC seeks to make use of the company’s new streamlined processing for small satellites, though the spacecraft weighs almost 4 occasions the restrict of 500 kilograms established by the FCC for utilizing that course of. A waiver of that mass restrict, the corporate argues, “is suitable and needed on this case given extraordinarily short-term use of the NOVA-C and the truth that it’s non-Earth orbiting business lunar mission.” It added that it believed that it was within the public curiosity to waive the mass restrict given the position of IM-1 in NASA’s general Artemis lunar exploration program.
The corporate additionally seeks FCC permission to make use of S-band frequencies though there is no such thing as a business allocation for them. “Intuitive Machines is offering providers on behalf of a authorities company and is supported by means of Federal funding,” it famous within the submitting, including that it will coordinate with authorities customers of that band to keep away from interference.
The lander is carrying a number of payloads for NASA by means of the company’s Industrial Lunar Payload Companies (CLPS) program. Intuitive Machines obtained one of many first CLPS awards in Could 2019, valued at $77 million for a mission then scheduled for launch in July 2021. These payloads are a laser retroreflector, a lidar for navigation throughout touchdown, stereo digicam system, an autonomous navigation experiment and low-frequency radio experiment.
IM-1 may even have a number of business payloads on the lander. They embody a small rover from British firm Spacebit, a digicam that will probably be deployed to supply an exterior view of the touchdown, an astronomical telescope for the Worldwide Lunar Observatory Affiliation, a radiation measurement sensor, a “passive information cache” within the type of etched metallic disks and a sensor to measure propellant tank ranges.
IM-1 was to be the primary CLPS mission to launch, and certainly one of two scheduled to fly this 12 months. The opposite is Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander, which obtained a $79.5 million award from NASA on the similar time Intuitive Machines gained its first CLPS contract.
Astrobotic introduced its newest buyer for that mission April 22. The German area company DLR will fly a radiation sensor on that spacecraft related to those who will fly on the Artemis 1 Orion take a look at flight. That launch acknowledged that the launch was nonetheless scheduled for 2021, though a DLR launch stated the mission would go to the moon “on the finish of the 12 months.”
Peregrine would be the payload for the primary launch of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. ULA is concentrating on a primary Vulcan launch late this 12 months, however has not supplied a extra particular launch date.