WASHINGTON – SpaceX was awarded contracts on January 13 to launch a NASA-backed lunar landing commercial mission as well as a privately funded satellite to track methane emissions.
Intuitive Machines has announced that it has selected SpaceX for the launch of its IM-2 lunar landing mission on a Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than 2022. IM-2 will land in the south polar region of the Moon carrying organized payloads via the agency’s commercial lunar payload. Service Program (CLPS) in October.
The IM-2 mission will conduct a drilling experiment called Polar Resource Ice Mining Experiment 1 (PRIME-1), which will search for water ice beneath the lunar surface. Intuitive Machines said that in addition to the PRIME-1 drill, two other NASA tech payloads will fly on the lander.
Intuitive Machines also chose SpaceX for its first landing mission, IM-1. This spacecraft is expected to launch later this year as one of the first two CLPS landing missions. Both missions will use a lander design called the Nova-C.
“Launching Nova-C on a rocket with proven reliability and exceptional value is an assurance to NASA and our commercial payload customers that IM is dedicated to sustaining the landing in consecutive lunar missions,” Steve Altemus, president and chief executive officer of Intuitive Machines, the company said in a statement.
Intuitive Machines is one of three companies that have so far received NASA’s CLPS awards. Masten Space Systems, which won a CLPS landing mission to the Moon’s south polar region in April 2020, chose SpaceX in August to launch its XL-1 lander. Masten said at the time that his SpaceX contract did not cover a specific launcher, but rather a service to bring the spacecraft to the moon on a schedule desired by the company.
Astrobotic, which won a first CLPS award alongside Intuitive Machines in May 2019, will perform this mission at the inaugural launch of the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur in late 2021. Astrobotic won a CLPS award in June for delivering NASA’s VIPER lunar rover at the South Pole. of the moon at the end of 2023, but has not announced the launcher for this mission.
In a separate announcement, MethaneSAT, a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), announced that it will launch its eponymous satellite on a Falcon 9 in October 2022. The spacecraft will be launched through SpaceX’s Smallsat carpooling program, said project spokesperson Jon Coifman.
“SpaceX provides the availability and reliability we need to get our instrument into orbit and start broadcasting emissions data as soon as possible. We couldn’t ask for a more capable launch partner, ”said Steven Hamburg, manager of the MethaneSAT project, in a statement.
The 350-kilogram satellite, built by a team that includes Ball Aerospace and Blue Canyon Technologies, will perform high-resolution mapping of methane emissions, helping scientists and conservationists identify sources of greenhouse gases from oil and gas industry facilities. EDF will make the MethaneSAT data available free of charge.
EDF received a $ 100 million grant from the Bezos Earth Fund on November 16, which the organization will use for activities including the completion and launch of MethaneSAT. The fund, which plans to spend $ 10 million on climate change initiatives, was created by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and vehicle launch company Blue Origin.