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Intuitive Machines second moon mission on track for 2024


Intuitive Machines’ second moon mission is still on track to launch before the end of this year, after the company only had to make minor adjustments to the lunar lander design, executives said during an earnings call Thursday.

The company made history earlier this year when it became the first commercial company to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. That mission, called IM-1, was not without its quirks — the lander ultimately came in a little too hot and ended up tipped over on the surface — but it proved out the lander’s core components, engine, and subsystems.

That same lander class, which the company calls Nova-C, will be returning to the moon later this year in that second mission. Critically, the IM-2 mission will deliver NASA payloads that will search the lunar South Pole for water ice, a resource that could eventually be processed into propulsion for rockets or to support a permanent lunar astronaut habitat.

The Intuitive Machines team identified just “a handful of adjustments” that will be implemented on the second lander, CEO Steve Altemus said during the earnings call.

“We really don’t see any impacts to the schedule based on the changes from IM-1,” he said. “They are fairly straightforward.”

Among the changes that the company will be implementing are improvements to the laser rangefinder switch system, he added. The laser rangefinders are a navigational subsystem on the lander, and they help determine variables like altitude and horizontal velocity. Mission controllers learned very late in the game that the laser rangefinders on the first lander were not functional — because engineers did not turn on a physical switch on the component while it was still on the ground. (They managed to land the spacecraft anyway through some very quick thinking.)

The second mission may be impacted because NASA is still finalizing the landing site, which will be somewhere on the lunar south pole on a ridge near the Shackleton crater. When the space agency originally announced the landing site location for the IM-2 mission, they noted that data from the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft indicated that the area could have ice below the surface.

Intuitive Machines ended the fourth quarter of 2023 with $30.6 million in revenue and a cash balance of just $4.5 million. That number was given a significant boost after an intuitional investor exercised $50.6 million in warrants and the company closed a $10 million strategic equity investment.

As a result of these investments, as of March 1, the company’s cash balance swelled to nearly $55 million — the largest balance “relative to any quarter-end” since the company went public in February 2023.

Beyond the second moon mission, 2024 will likely be a pivotal year for the company, which is awaiting the decision on NASA awards that could be extremely lucrative. That includes the award for the Lunar Terrain Vehicle, which NASA will announce early next month, and the next lunar lander contract under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.



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