Nova-C Lunar Lander
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 launchFebruary 2024 (scheduled)[4]
Related spacecraft
Derived fromProject Morpheus[2]

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

Intuitive Machines was one of nine commercial landing service providers[5] selected by NASA in November 2018 to submit bids for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.[6] 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 to be launched in February 2024,[4] with a second lander on the IM-2 mission and a third one on the IM-3 mission to follow later. 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, inheriting technology developed by NASA's Project Morpheus.[2] Its pressure-fed VR900 main engine uses methane and oxygen as liquid propellants, pressurized by helium gas,[11] to produce 4,000 N (900 lbf) of thrust. The lander also includes autonomous landing and hazard detection technology.[1] Lander propellant loading will take place at the launch pad alongside propellant loading of the carrier rocket. For IM-1, lander propellant will be loaded at LC-39A using the same Transporter erector that will load RP-1 and liquid oxygen onto the mission's Falcon 9 Block 5 carrier rocket.[12] 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.[13][14] 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.[15]

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.[15]


The IM-1 mission is scheduled for launch in February 2024.[4] Several days before the launch a wet dress rehearsal loading Nova‑C with propellants will take place.[16]


For the IM-1 mission Nova‑C will carry up to five NASA-sponsored instruments. The lander will also carry payloads from other customers, including EagleCAM.[17] 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.[18][17] As of February 2023, the site will be at Malapert A near the lunar south pole.[19]

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.[20][21][22][23]

Name Agency/Company Type
Nova-C Intuitive Machines Lunar lander
* ILO-X [24] 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
* Plasma and Low-frequency Radio Observations for the Near Side Lunar Surface (ROLSES) [25] NASA / University of Colorado Boulder Instrument
* Tiger Eye 1 [26] Louisiana State University Instrument
EagleCAM [27] Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University CubeSat
DOGE-1 Geometric Energy Corporation CubeSat
Lunaprise [28] 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 December 2023, IM-2 is expected to be launched in mid 2024.[29]

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.[30][31]

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.[32]

The µNova (Micro Nova) Hopper 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.[33][34]

A lunar communications satellite will be deployed on this mission to facilitate communications between the lander and ground stations on Earth.[34]

Spaceflight will deliver rideshare payloads on this mission aboard its Sherpa EScape (Sherpa-ES) space tug called Geo Pathfinder.[35][36]

MiniPIX TPX3 SPACE Payload The MiniPIX TPX3 SPACE payload, provided by the Czech company ADVACAM, will be onboard the NOVA-C lunar lander. This payload is designed to monitor the radiation field on the Moon and help understand how to protect crew and equipment from the negative effects of cosmic rays. This marks the first Czech payload planned to be delivered to the Moon's surface.[37][38]

IM-3 mission

In August 2021, Intuitive Machines selected SpaceX to launch its third lunar mission, IM-3, in 2024.[7] It will deliver payloads to Reiner Gamma for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.[39][40]

See also

Commercial US Lunar landers

Current lunar lander programs


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