NASA Science Touches Down on Moon with Intuitive Machines’ Mission

Carrying NASA science and technology to the Moon, Intuitive Machines’ uncrewed lunar lander touched down at 5:23 p.m. CST on Thursday. The instruments aboard Odysseus will prepare NASA for future human exploration of the Moon under Artemis. Additional updates will be available Friday, Feb. 23.

Intuitive Machines Prepares to Land on the Moon with NASA Science Ready to Begin Operations

After a successful lunar orbit insertion, Odysseus is currently orbiting the Moon, approximately 12 miles above the lunar surface. Carrying six NASA science investigations and technology demonstrations, the Intuitive Machines lander is expected to land at 6:24 p.m. EST near Malapert A in the south polar region of the Moon. Watch now on NASA+, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Over the last seven days as the mission has travelled from the Earth to the Moon, all powered NASA science instruments have completed their transit checkouts, collected data, and are operating as expected. Flight controllers will continue to analyze the data collected and monitor the payloads to inform preparations for landing.

The remaining lunar descent milestones include the following. All times are approximate:

Time (EST) Event
6:11 p.m. Powered Descent Initiation
6:22 p.m. Pitch Over with Main Engine
6:23 p.m. Hazard Detection and Avoidance
6:24 p.m. Vertical Descent
6:24 p.m. Terminal Descent
6:24 p.m. Landing

Intuitive Machines Updates IM-1 Mission Landing Time

NASA science is taking another orbit around the Moon. Flight controllers chose to complete an additional orbit before beginning the IM-1 Mission landing sequence. The updated landing time is 6:24 pm. EST.

NASA coverage of the mission will begin at 5 p.m. on NASA+, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Intuitive Machines Updates IM-1 Landing Time, Carrying NASA Science

Carrying NASA science instruments to the Moon, Intuitive Machines’ flight controllers conducted a lunar correction maneuver to raise the orbit for Odysseus overnight. As a result, the anticipated landing time is now 4:24 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 22.

NASA coverage of the mission will begin at 3 p.m. on NASA+, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Intuitive Machines, NASA Science Progress Toward Moon Landing

Odysseus passes over the near side of the Moon after entering lunar orbit insertion on February 21. Credit: Intuitive Machines
Odysseus passes over the near side of the Moon after entering lunar orbit insertion on February 21. Credit: Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander has completed lunar orbit insertion successfully and is currently orbiting the Moon. Odysseus continues to be in excellent health and is approximately 60 miles (92km) from the Moon. 

The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for approximately one day before beginning its descent toward the lunar surface. The landing opportunity is targeted for Thursday, Feb. 22, at 5:30 p.m. EST.  

All powered NASA science instruments on board have completed their transit checkouts, received data, and are operating as expected, including: LN-1 (Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator), NDL (Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing), RFMG (Radio Frequency Mass Gauge), ROLSES (Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Photoelectron Sheath), SCALPSS (Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies). Since the LRA (Laser Retroreflector Array) instrument is a passive experiment designed for the lunar surface, it cannot conduct any operations in transit. 

LN-1 has made three successful passes with NASA’s Deep Space Network, establishing real-time communications with ground stations on Earth. Upon lunar touchdown, the LN-1 team will conduct a full systems checkout and begin continuous operations within 24 hours of landing. NASA’s Deep Space Network will receive its transmissions, capturing telemetry, Doppler tracking, and other data and relaying it back to Earth. 

A SCALPSS checkout was completed during transit, confirming the cameras are operating as expected and the instrument is in good health. Using four tiny cameras, SCALPSS will collect imagery of how the surface changes from interactions with the spacecraft’s engine plume as the lander descends toward the Moon. 

RFMG continues to gauge the cryogenic propellants on Odysseus throughout the mission, including propellant loading, transit, lunar orbit insertion burn, and low lunar orbit.  Data collection and analysis will continue through landing on the Moon and could provide insights on how to measure fuel in microgravity.  

NDL and ROLSES have been operated, and flight controllers will continue to monitor the instruments and collect data to inform preparations for landing. 

Odysseus’ Terrain Relative Navigation camera captures the Bel’kovich K crater on the Moon’s northern equatorial highlands. The crater has an approximate 50 km diameter with mountains in the center, made when the crater was formed. Credit: Intuitive Machines
Odysseus’ Terrain Relative Navigation camera captures the Bel’kovich K crater on the Moon’s northern equatorial highlands. The crater has an approximate 50 km diameter with mountains in the center, made when the crater was formed. Credit: Intuitive Machines

 

Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission is the company’s first mission through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to gain new insights into the lunar environment and expand the lunar economy to support future crewed missions under NASA’s Artemis campaign. 

Follow along with Intuitive Machines for the latest operational updates on their mission.   

NASA Science Aboard Intuitive Machines Continues Journey to Moon

A view of Earth and one of Odysseus’ fuel pressurant tanks aboard the IM-1 mission. Intuitive Machines is a commercial company that has been contracted by NASA to send its science and technology instruments to the Moon. Colombia Sportswear is a commercial payload contracted with Intuitive Machines.
A view of Earth and one of Odysseus’ fuel pressurant tanks aboard the IM-1 mission. Intuitive Machines is a commercial company that has been contracted by NASA to send its science and technology instruments to the Moon. Columbia Sportswear is a commercial payload contracted with Intuitive Machines. Credit: Intuitive Machines

After a successful launch on Feb. 15, six NASA science instruments and technology demonstrations continue their journey to the Moon aboard Intuitive Machines’ lander named Odysseus. The company confirmed communications contact with its mission operations control in Houston, and its lander continues to perform as expected.

Known as IM-1, Intuitive Machines successfully transmitted its first images back to Earth on Feb. 16. These were captured shortly after separation from SpaceX’s second stage, on Intuitive Machines’ first journey to the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative and Artemis campaign.

Within an hour of launching, NASA confirmed data was streaming from the agency’s powered science and technology instruments aboard the flight. This means data from these instruments was automatically streaming back to the teams so NASA could monitor the health and status of its instruments.

Later, Intuitive Machines successfully commissioned Odysseus’ engine which means they exercised the engine’s complete flight profile, including the throttling required for landing. The engine, which uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen, is the first of its kind fired in space.

One of the NASA instruments, the Radio Frequency Mass Gauge is gauging the cryogenic propellants on Odysseus throughout the mission. Data files have been collected and many have been downloaded for analysis. Throughout the propellant loading phase that took place before launch, the instrument collected data, which was downloaded and analyzed in near-real time. Data also is being collected during the microgravity transit phase of the mission. This analysis will continue through landing on the Moon.

Another NASA instrument, Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator, integrates navigation and communication functionality. This science instrument will operate for the first time today and daily during the cruise phase as the landing date draws closer. The radio beacon is designed to support precise geolocation and navigation observations to orbiters, landers, and surface personnel, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other craft, ground stations, or rovers on the move. The check-out helps prepare to land on the Moon as the navigation demonstrator aims to gather this data throughout the duration of the surface operations phase of the mission. Over the next day, flight controllers will analyze the data from this procedure to inform preparations for landing on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Follow along with Intuitive Machines for the latest operational updates on their mission.

A view of Earth captured by a 186-degree wide field of view camera aboard Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar. The start of this image sequence occurred 100 seconds after separation and lasts for two hours. Credit: Intuitive Machines
A view of Earth captured by a 186-degree wide field of view camera aboard Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar. The start of this image sequence occurred 100 seconds after separation and lasts for two hours. Credit: Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines Lander On Its Way To the Moon

Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander successfully powered on, made communications contact, and is now on its way to the Moon, carrying NASA science and technology demonstrations as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign.

Nova-C is expected to land on the lunar surface Thursday, Feb. 22, and throughout its mission, the agency’s scientific instruments will focus on plume-surface interactions, space weather/lunar surface interactions, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and a communication and navigation node for future autonomous navigation technologies.

This concludes our live launch coverage. Continue to follow along for more CLPS updates: nasa.gov/clps.

Intuitive Machines Moon Lander Successfully Deploys

At approximately 1:53 a.m. EST, the Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander successfully deployed from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 second stage.

Onboard the lander are NASA scientific instruments and technology demonstrations, as well as other commercial payloads, heading to the Moon. Intuitive Machines was selected for this delivery as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign. Coming up, Nova-C will power on and begin its journey to the lunar surface.

Liftoff! Intuitive Machines Lander Carrying NASA Science Begins Journey to the Moon

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:05 a.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. As part of NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign, Intuitive Machines’ first lunar mission will carry NASA science and commercial payloads to the Moon to study plume-surface interactions, space weather/lunar surface interactions, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and a communication and navigation node for future autonomous navigation technologies. Photo credit: Mike Chambers

At 1:05 a.m. EST SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Onboard the lander is a suite of NASA scientific instruments and technology demonstrations, as well as commercial payloads, heading to the surface of the Moon. The NASA payloads onboard the lander aim to help the agency develop capabilities needed to explore the Moon under Artemis and in advance of human missions on the lunar surface. Intuitive Machines was selected for this delivery as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign

The next major milestone will be when Nova-C separates from the rocket’s second stage, which is expected to occur in approximately 48 minutes or around 1:53 a.m. EST.

 

NASA Science Aboard Intuitive Machines Mission for Moon, Watch Now

Carrying NASA science to the Moon as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative, a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for a 1:05 a.m. EST liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch now on NASA+, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Onboard Falcon 9 is Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, which holds six NASA scientific instruments and technology demonstrations, along with other commercial payloads. This is the first CLPS flight for Intuitive Machines, which is part of the Artemis campaign.

Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, with the primary weather concerns revolving around thick cloud coverage.

Here’s a look at the remaining of SpaceX’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate:

Countdown
Hour/Minute/Second               Event

00:38:00                                          SpaceX launch director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00                                          Rocket grade kerosene loading begins
00:35:00                                          1st stage liquid oxygen loading begins
00:16:00                                          2nd stage liquid oxygen loading begins
00:07:00                                         Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
00:01:00                                          Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:01:00                                          Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
00:00:45                                         SpaceX launch director verifies go for launch
00:00:03                                         Command for engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00                                         Falcon 9 liftoff

Launch, Landing, and Separation
Hour/Minute/Second               Event

00:01:12                                           Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:14                                          1st stage main engine cutoff
00:02:17                                          1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:25                                         2nd stage engine starts
00:02:30                                         Boostback burn starts
00:03:06                                         Fairing deployment
00:03:27                                         Boostback burn ends
00:06:11                                          1st stage entry burn begins
00:06:22                                         1st stage entry burn ends
00:07:17                                          1st stage landing burn start
00:07:34                                         1st stage landing
00:07:46                                        2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:41:40                                         2nd stage engine starts (SES-2)
00:42:33                                         2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:48:24                                        Nova-C separates from 2nd stage