NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis Program (47974873213).jpg
Nova-C model
DesignerIntuitive Machines
Country of originUnited States
ApplicationsLunar payloads delivery
Spacecraft typeLander
Launch mass1,900 kg (4,200 lb) [1]
Payload capacity100 kg (220 lb) [2]
Power200 W (0.27 hp)[2]
Length3 m (9.8 ft) [3]
Diameter2 m (6 ft 7 in) [3]
StatusIn development
Maiden launchJune 2023 (planned)[4]
Related spacecraft
Derived fromProject Morpheus[2]

Nova-C is a lunar lander designed by the private company Intuitive Machines to deliver small commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon.

Intuitive Machines was one of nine contractor companies selected by NASA in November 2018 to submit bids for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.[5] Nova-C is one of the lunar landers that will be built and launched under that program. The first Nova-C lander is manifested on the IM-1 mission in June 2023,[4] with a second lander on the IM-2 mission later in the same year.[6] The IM-3 mission is scheduled to launch in early 2024. All three landers will launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle.[7][8][9][10]


The Nova-C lunar lander was designed by Intuitive Machines, and it inherits technology developed by NASA's Project Morpheus.[2] It features a main engine called the VR900 that uses methane and liquid oxygen and produces 4,000 N (900 lbf) of thrust, and an autonomous landing and hazard detection technology.[1] After landing, the lander is capable of relocating by performing a vertical takeoff, cruise, and vertical landing.[2] Methane and oxygen could potentially be manufactured on the Moon and Mars using In-situ resource utilization.[11][12] Nova-C is capable of 24/7 data coverage for its client payload, and can hold a payload of 100 kg.[2] The Nova-C lander design provides a technology platform that scales to mid and large lander classes, capable of accommodating larger payloads.[13]

IM-1 mission

Nova-C was selected in May 2019 for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services as one of the first three landers of this program, tasked with delivering small payloads to explore and test technologies to process some natural resources of the Moon. NASA awarded Intuitive Machines US$77 million for building and launching Nova-C.[13]

During the IM-1 mission planned for June 2023,[4] Nova-C will carry up to five NASA-sponsored instruments. In addition, the lander will also carry some payloads from other customers, including EagleCAM and 1–2 Spacebit rovers.[14] The lander will operate for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days.[10] The planned landing site has changed several times. At one point it was to land between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Crisium.[15][14] As of February 2023 the site will be at Malapert A near the lunar south pole.[16]

DOGE-1 and EagleCAM will be deployed as secondary payloads. The DOGE-1 payload has a mass of 40 kg and was paid for with Dogecoin.[17][18][19][20]


Name Agency/Company Type
Nova-C Intuitive Machines Lunar lander
* ILO-X [21] International Lunar Observatory Instrument
* Laser Retro-Reflector Array NASA Instrument
* Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing NASA Instrument
* Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator NASA Instrument
* Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies NASA Instrument
* Low-frequency Radio Observations for the Near Side Lunar Surface [22] NASA / University of Colorado Boulder Instrument
* Tiger Eye 1 [23] Louisiana State University Instrument
Spacebit Mission Two Spacebit Rover
EagleCAM [24] Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University CubeSat
DOGE-1 Geometric Energy Corporation CubeSat
Lunaprise [25] Galactic Legacy Labs Memorial

IM-2 mission

Intuitive Machines was selected in October 2020 in order to land its second Nova-C lander near the lunar south pole. As of April 2023, IM-2 is expected to be launched in November 2023.[26]

The primary payloads will be the PRIME-1 ice drill, which will attempt to harvest ice from below the lunar surface with the aid of the MSolo mass spectrometer.[27][28]

ILO-1 prime contractor Canadensys is working to deliver "a flight-ready low-cost optical payload for the ILO-1 mission, ruggedized for the Moon South Pole environment". It could potentially be ready for integration on the IM-2 mission.[21]

The µNova payload will separate from the Nova-C lander after landing and function as a standalone hopper lander, exploring multiple difficult-to-reach areas such as deep craters on the lunar surface.[29][30]

A lunar communications satellite will be deployed on this mission to facilitate communications between the lander and ground stations on Earth.[30]

Spaceflight will deliver rideshare payloads on this mission aboard its Sherpa EScape (Sherpa-ES) space tug called Geo Pathfinder.[31][32]

IM-3 mission

In August 2021, Intuitive Machines selected SpaceX to launch its third lunar mission, IM-3, in early 2024.[7] It will deliver payloads to Reiner Gamma for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.[33][34]

See also

Current lunar lander programs


  1. ^ a b Berger, Eric (3 May 2021). "For lunar cargo delivery, NASA accepts risk in return for low prices". Ars Technica. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Nova-C Lunar Lander Archived 1 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine Intuitive Machines Accessed on 28 May 2019
  3. ^ a b Houston company among 9 tapped to build moon landers Archived 2018-12-01 at the Wayback Machine Alex Stuckey, The Houston Chronicle 30 November 2018
  4. ^ a b c "NASA Redirects Intuitive Machines' First Mission to the Lunar South Pole Region". Intuitive Machines. 6 February 2023. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
  5. ^ "NASA Announces New Partnerships for Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services". NASA. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Rainbow, Jason (19 April 2022). "Lonestar emerges from stealth with plans for lunar data centers". SpaceNews. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Three-peat: Intuitive Machines Selects SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket for Third Moon Mission". Intuitive Machines. 10 August 2021. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  8. ^ "Intuitive Machines' first lunar lander mission slips to 2022". SpaceNews. 28 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  9. ^ "One Giant Leap". Columbia. 19 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  10. ^ a b Etherington, Darrell (13 April 2020). "Intuitive Machines picks a launch date and landing site for 2021 Moon cargo delivery mission". TechCrunch. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Innovative Partnership Tests Fuels of the Future". NASA. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2012. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Nasa's new Mars landing craft Morpheus bursts into flames on take-off The Telegraph 10 August 2012
  13. ^ a b Intuitive Machines Headed To The Moon In 2021 Archived 2019-06-02 at the Wayback Machine Space Mining News 30 November 2018
  14. ^ a b "Intuitive Machines-1 Orbital Debris Assessment Report (ODAR) Revision 1.1" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. 22 April 2021. Retrieved 24 April 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "First Commercial Moon Delivery Assignments to Advance Artemis". NASA. 22 January 2020.
  16. ^ Foust, Jeff (7 February 2023). "Intuitive Machines moves landing site of first mission to lunar south pole". SpaceNews. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  17. ^ Geometric Energy press release. "SpaceX to Launch DOGE-1 to the Moon". Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  18. ^ "SpaceX accepts dogecoin as payment to launch lunar mission next year". Reuters. 9 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  19. ^ "IM-1 Nova-C and DOGE-1". Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  20. ^ "We knew @ElonMusk was taking #Dogecoin to the Moon, but had no idea it would be on our flight". Twitter. 10 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  22. ^ "Radiowave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the photoElectron Sheath (ROLSES)". 18 July 2019.
  23. ^ "LSU Goes to the Moon". Louisiana State University. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  24. ^ "EagleCam; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida".
  25. ^ "Galactic Legacy Labs - About Us".
  26. ^ "Upcoming Mission Events". NASA. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  27. ^ "NASA - NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Details".
  28. ^ Brown, Katherine (16 October 2020). "NASA Selects Intuitive Machines to Land Water-Measuring Payload on the Moon". NASA. Retrieved 15 November 2020. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  29. ^ "Lunar Services – Getting Around – EXTREME Lunar Surface Mobility". Intuitive Machines. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  30. ^ a b "Intuitive Machines to Deploy and Operate First Lunar Communication Satellite in 2022". Intuitive Machines. 21 June 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  31. ^ "IM-2 South Pole Mission Adds Secondary Rideshare Spaceflight Inc". Intuitive Machines. 18 August 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  32. ^ "Spaceflight Inc announces rideshare mission to the moon and geostationary orbit". 15 September 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  33. ^ "NASA Selects Intuitive Machines to Deliver 4 Lunar Payloads in 2024". Intuitive Machines. 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  34. ^ "NASA Selects Intuitive Machines for New Lunar Science Delivery". NASA (Press release). 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.