SpaceX picked to launch upcoming NASA moon mission

James Marshall
October 4, 2019

Elon Musk's SpaceX seems to be a popular choice for private missions to the moon that need a lift.

The mission was a failure, however, as the company's Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the Moon in April. The company said it chose SpaceX after receiving proposals from "multiple launch providers", although at a May 31 NASA event Steve Altemus, president and chief executive of the company, said it had already selected and was "finalizing arrangements" with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines will use SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket to launch a Nova-C lander that's heading to the moon in 2021, the companies said Wednesday.

According to the release, Intuitive Machines successfully obtained its contract from NASA in May, as a result of the space agency's interest in pinning down companies with the ability to develop landers that can transport NASA payloads to the lunar surface.

There can be no doubt that Nasa is serious about trying to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Space agency NASA awarded Intuitive Machine the mission under the CLPS contract in May this year.

Intuitive Machines is one of nine companies that are part of the CLPS program, where NASA will buy services to transport payloads to the moon.

The launch contract announcement came a day after a federal appeals court affirmed a lower court's verdict in a suit between Intuitive Machines and Moon Express.

The first payload delivery under CLPS is pencilled in for a July 2021 launch.

In its accompanying statement, Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, indicated that the company's partnership with Intuitive Machines is a "great example of two private companies working together with NASA to advance space exploration".

The next two companies to send landers to the Moon for NASA are Orbit Beyond and Astrobotic.

Each of the three companies was awarded upwards of £62million ($77million) for the missions. Josh Marshall, an Intuitive Machines spokesman, said October 3 the contract was for a rideshare mission but that SpaceX didn't classify Nova-C as a primary or a secondary payload.

Intuitive Machines says Nova-C can carry at least 220 pounds (100 kg) of cargo to the lunar surface.

The company will add some payloads from other customers to fill out the Nova-C's cargo manifest, Intuitive Machines representatives said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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