Intuitive Machines picks SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch its moon lander for NASA

Artist's illustration of Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lunar lander on the moon.
Artist's illustration of Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lunar lander on the moon. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

A Houston-based company that NASA selected to ferry upcoming lunar experiments to the moon has hired SpaceX to launch its lunar landing mission. 

Intuitive Machines is a private company currently developing a lunar lander capable of bringing scientific payloads to the moon. It was founded in 2013 to, as their company website states, create "new lunar economies to quench humanity's thirst for knowledge through innovative solutions to the hardest problems." Their first step towards this goal will be the IM-1 mission, which is currently scheduled to reach the moon at the beginning of 2022, according to their website. 

NASA selected Intuitive Machines, along with Astrobotic and Orbit Beyond, back in May 2019 to deliver science experiments and technology demonstrations to the moon to service the space agency's Artemis Program. NASA picked these three private companies as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. 

Related: NASA picks 3 new science experiments for commercial moon missions

On Aug. 10, Intuitive Machines announced that it would partner with SpaceX for its third flight, called IM-3. Sometime in early 2024, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch IM-3 into space. From there, Intuitive Machine's Nova-C lunar lander would carry and land about 287 pounds (130 kilograms) of payloads onto the lunar surface. 

NASA plans on sending numerous payloads to the moon over the next several years to get a good idea of the lunar environment. This is in anticipation of the stage of the Artemis program when humans would return to the moon and create an outpost, where local lunar resources and knowledge would help support those missions. 

In October 2020, NASA announced that it had picked Intuitive Machines to land a water-measuring payload to the moon's south pole. Under the deal, the space agency will pay the company $47 million to deliver NASA's Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) in 2022. 

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Doris Elin Urrutia
Contributing Writer

Doris is a science journalist and contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.