The first commercial lunar landers are set to start making their trips to the moon as early as this year, and now another one has a confirmed ride booked: Intuitive Machines is sending its second lander aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, with a projected launch time frame happening sometime around 2022 at the earliest. Intuitive Machines has already booked a first lander mission via SpaceX, which is also hosting payloads for other private companies seeking to make lunar landfall under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander can carry up to 100 kg (around 222 lbs) of cargo to the moon’s surface, and can communicate back to Earth for transmitting the results of its missions. It has both internal and surface-mounting capacity, and will carry science experiments for a variety of customers to the lunar surface through NASA’s commercial partnership program, partly to support future NASA missions including its planned Artemis human moon landings.
The first Intuitive Machines lunar lander mission, which will also use a Nova-C lander, is set to take place sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021 based on current timelines. It’ll include a lunar imaging suite, which will seek to “capture some of the first images of the Milky Way Galaxy Center from the surface of the Moon,” and the second mission will include delivering a polar resource mining drill and a mass spectrometer to the moon’s south pole on behalf of NASA, in addition to other payloads.