Saturday, July 20

Live Video: Watch SpaceX Launch Intuitive Nova-C Moon Lander Machines

Live Video: Watch SpaceX Launch Intuitive Nova-C Moon Lander Machines

Another month, another day, another attempt at the moon.

A robotic lander is expected to launch early Thursday morning, a day after a technical problem delayed the first launch attempt. If all goes well, it will become the first American spacecraft to land softly on the surface of the Moon since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972.

It is also the latest private effort to send a spacecraft to the Moon. Previous attempts have all ended in failure. But the company behind the latest effort, Intuitive Machines of Houston, is optimistic.

“I’m pretty confident that we will be successful in soft landing on the Moon,” said Stephen Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines. “We did the tests. We tested and tested and tested. “As many tests as possible.”

The Intuitive Machines lander, named Odysseus, is scheduled to launch at 1:05 a.m. Eastern time Thursday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About two hours before launch, NASA and SpaceX both announced that weather conditions remained about 90% favorable to allow launch.

EspaceX And JAR will broadcast coverage of the launch beginning at 12:20 a.m. Eastern Time. You can watch the video in the embedded player above.

SpaceX announced Tuesday evening that it was postponing a launch attempt Wednesday morning. The company said in an article on X that the methane temperature for the lander was “off-nominal.”

If another technical problem or bad weather delays the launch, SpaceX can try again on Friday.

If the launch takes place this week, the landing will take place on February 22 near a crater named Malapert A. (Malapert A is a satellite crater of the larger Malapert crater, which is named after Charles Malapert, a Belgian astronomer from Seventeenth century.)

Ulysses will enter orbit around the Moon approximately 24 hours before the landing attempt.

The landing site, about 185 miles from the south pole on the near side of the moon, is relatively flat, an easier place for a spacecraft to land. No U.S. spacecraft has ever landed at the lunar south pole, which is the focus of many space agencies and companies because it can be rich in frozen water.

Intuitive Machines calls its spacecraft design Nova-C and has named this particular lander Odysseus. It is a hexagonal cylinder with six landing legs, measuring approximately 14 feet high and 5 feet wide. Intuitive Machines points out that the body of the lander is about the size of an old British telephone box, i.e. like the Tardis in the science fiction TV show “Doctor Who.”

At launch, with a full propellant load, the lander weighs approximately 4,200 pounds.

NASA is the primary customer for the Intuitive Machines flight; it pays the company $118 million to deliver its payloads. NASA also spent an additional $11 million to develop and build the flight’s six instruments:

  • An array of laser retroreflectors to reflect laser beams fired from Earth.

  • A LIDAR instrument to accurately measure the altitude and speed of the spacecraft as it descends to the lunar surface.

  • A stereo camera to capture video of the dust plume raised by the lander’s engines during landing.

  • A low-frequency radio receiver to measure the effects of charged particles near the lunar surface on radio signals.

  • A beacon, Lunar Node-1, to demonstrate an autonomous navigation system.

  • An instrument in the propellant tank that uses radio waves to measure the amount of fuel remaining in the tank.

The lander also carries a few other payloads, including a camera built by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; a precursor instrument for a future lunar telescope; and an art project by Jeff Koons.

On January 8, Astrobotic Technology sent its Peregrine lander to the Moon. But a malfunction in its propulsion system shortly after launch prevented any possibility of landing. Ten days later, as Peregrine returned to Earth, it burned up in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Both Odysseus and Peregrine are part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program. The goal of the program is to use commercial companies to send experiments to the Moon rather than NASA building and operating its own lunar landers.

“We always viewed these initial CLPS deliveries as a sort of learning experience,” Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said at a news conference. Tuesday.

The space agency hopes this approach will be much less costly, allowing it to send more missions more frequently as it prepares to return astronauts to the Moon as part of its Artemis program.