Announced the launch date of a private mission to the South Pole of the Moon

Intuitive Machines has announced for the first time the launch date of its IM-1 mission, the goal of which will be the South Pole of the Moon. It is scheduled for November 15.

Private mission to the South Pole of the Moon

In 2019, Intuitive Machines won its first contract worth USD 77 million under the NASA-funded CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program. Its goal is to attract private companies to the exploration of the natural moon of our planet. Under the terms of the agreement, as part of the IM-1 mission, the company undertook to ensure the delivery of six NASA-provided cargo to the Moon. Later, loads from various private customers were added to them. To do this, the company uses the NOVA-C descent vehicle of its own design.

The NOVA-C lander. Source: Intuitive Machines

Initially, the landing site of NOVA-C was supposed to be the Schröter’s Valley, once considered as the landing site of the canceled Apollo 18 expedition. But in early 2023, NASA announced the redirection of the mission. The Aerospace Administration wanted IM-1 to land closer to the South Pole of the Moon, chosen as the landing site for manned expeditions under the Artemis program.

As a result, the new landing site was the 24-kilometer crater Malapert A. It is located at a point with coordinates 80°4′ S lat. 3°4′ W. This is noticeably closer to the South Pole of the Moon than the expected landing sites of the Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25 missions (69° South). The landing site of the IM-1 is interesting because the so-called Malapert massif is located not far from it. Its peak is considered as one of the possible landing sites of the Artemis III expedition.

First launch of Intuitive Machines

Despite a series of postponements, Intuitive Machines came close to the first launch. According to a recent statement from the company’s management, it is scheduled for November 15. A Falcon 9 rocket will be used for the mission. The ballistic window for a flight to the Moon will be open for six days. If the launch fails on the specified dates, the next opportunity to launch IM-1 will appear in December.

The Nova-C spacecraft in the artist’s image. Source: Intuitive Machines

The success of this mission is very important for Intuitive Machines. Recently, it has been experiencing financial difficulties. A successful landing on the Moon will significantly strengthen the position of the company experiencing difficult times.

It is worth saying that IM-1 is not the only private mission that is going to fly to the Moon. Astrobotic has already completed the preparation of its Astrobotic spacecraft, which will also be launched as part of the CLPS program. However, for the time being, it remains chained to the Earth due to the unavailability of the Vulcan rocket.

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