Takeoff of the Intuitive Machines lander to the Moon with support from NASA

02/15/2024 Nova C lunar lander takes off.

After many years since its inaugural announcement, NASA's CLPS program is finally beginning to take off.

If in January we followed the journey of Peregrine after its launch, on the back of the first Vulcan, now the Nova-C arrives. This new lander from Intuitive Machines  It has less carrying capacity than its predecessor in the program.

Nova C on the lunar surface
Image of the Nova C lander in a computer-generated image of what it will look like on the lunar surface. Source: Intuitive Machines

Another nominal launch of the Falcon 9

The vehicle selected for the Nova-C launch was SpaceX's robust Falcon 9. It is not the first lunar mission for the Hawthrone company, but it was not for its workhorse either. Already in 2019 they launched the mission Beresheet, collaboration of the Israeli company SpaceIL and the space agency of the same country. It is noteworthy that on that occasion the launch was carried out as a secondary load of the Spanish public satellite PAZ.

Image breaking down Nova C instruments
Diagram showing the location of Nova-C's instruments. Source: Intuitive Machines
Image breaking down Nova C instruments

Some details of the Nova-C

The main payload of the launch was the lunar probe of a weight of 1931 kilograms. Thanks to this, the ship is already on its way to the Moon in a direct launch. Most of its instruments belong to NASA, but there are also other companies and institutions dedicated to science. Many of them are dedicated to studying the interactions of engine exhaust gases with the lunar regolith.

This is the first of at least three missions given to Intuitive Machines' Nova-C. That is why it is quite important that this first mission be a success, subsequent delays would not be welcomed. Furthermore, these next two missions are scheduled according to the POT for this year.

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The Nova-C lunar lander is housed in the fairing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 as it prepares for launch, as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and the Artemis campaign. SpaceX

The CLPS program is facing a serious problem, and it is not the releases that have proven extremely reliable in recent times. At least by turning to large operators and not microlaunchers. But the challenge for Nova-C begins now. After the success of Chandrayaan 3, SLIM proceeded to make a very forced landing, Peregrine did not even come close to the Moon.

Martin Morala Andres