SpaceX was pressured to delay the deliberate early Wednesday launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a commercially constructed robotic lunar lander after engineers noticed uncommon temperature readings earlier than loading the probe with liquid methane gasoline.

The corporate mentioned the launch staff plans to make one other try Thursday, at 1:05 a.m. EST, to ship Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander towards landing close to the moon's south pole. A 3rd launch alternative is accessible on Friday if wanted, but when it's not off the bottom by then, the flight will go down in March.

So long as it goes down this week, nonetheless, the Odysseus lander, nicknamed “Odie,” will nonetheless contact down on February 22, about 186 miles from the moon's south pole, utilizing a high-powered 3D-printed primary engine that burns liquid oxygen. and methane propellants, a primary for a deep house mission.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lunar lander mounted in a protecting nostril fairing, is prepared for liftoff atop historic pad 39A on the Kennedy Area Heart.


SpaceX carried out in depth modifications to chill and direct the cryogenic propellants within the Falcon 9's nostril fairing after which within the touchdown tanks in the course of the rocket's run. Costume rehearsals had been staged on the finish of final week to confirm that the system is working as required and whereas minor glitches had been famous, firm officers mentioned there was no present.

However the countdown on Tuesday night time was interrupted in the course of the means of feeding the touchdown.

“Standing off tonight's try because of off-nominal methane temperatures earlier than transferring into the methane load,” SpaceX mentioned in a put up on X.

At any time when it takes off, the flight will comply with the ill-fated Jan. 8 launch of one other business lunar lander — Peregrine — constructed by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic that suffered a propulsion system malfunction shortly after take off. The incident derailed what would have been the primary US moon touchdown for the reason that ultimate flight of the Apollo program greater than 50 years in the past.

Odysseus-builder Intuitive Machines of Houston now hopes to assert that honor.

“This can be a deeply humbling second for all of us at Intuitive Machines,” Trent Martin, the corporate's vp of house methods, mentioned at a information convention earlier than the launch on Tuesday. “The chance to return america to the moon for the primary time since 1972 is an engineering feat that requires a starvation to discover.”

“Let's not overlook the challenges that lie forward,” added Martin. “Each journey into uncharted territory carries threat, however this willingness to embrace threat and push past our consolation zones pushes us ahead and drives innovation… Now we're going to make historical past.”

Artist's impression of Odysseus touchdown on the floor of the moon.

Intuitive machines

Odyssey is carrying six NASA devices and 6 different business payloads, together with sculptures, proof-of-concept cloud storage expertise, an astronomical telescope and a student-built digicam package deal that can drop to the floor earlier than touchdown to take photos his ultimate descent.

Amongst NASA's experiments is an instrument to review the atmosphere of charged particles on the floor of the moon, one other that can check navigation applied sciences and stereo cameras oriented to the aircraft designed to {photograph} how the engine excavation of the touchdown disturbs the bottom on the touchdown website.

Additionally on board: an progressive sensor that can use radio waves to precisely decide how a lot cryogenic propellant is left in a tank within the weightless atmosphere of house, expertise that’s anticipated to be helpful for downstream moon missions and different journeys deep house.

The Falcon 9 is predicted to launch the lander on a trajectory to the moon 48 minutes after liftoff. However moving into lunar orbit and right down to the floor might be as much as Odysseus and the Intuitive Machines flight management staff in Houston.

The touchdown Odysseus is seen simply earlier than the encapsulation in a falcon 9 hull.


A key stage is predicted 18 hours after launch when the principle touchdown gear is examined, or commissioned, to assist controllers calibrate its efficiency in house. After that, as much as three trajectory correction maneuvers are deliberate to refine its course to the moon.

It’s going to take Odysseus seven to eight days to succeed in his purpose. Flying behind the moon and out of contact with flight controls, the lander's primary engine should hearth for seven minutes “within the blind” to place the craft right into a 62-kilometer-high round orbit that brings it above the touchdown website at 80 levels. south latitude

Throughout 12 journeys across the moon, flight controllers will test the touchdown methods earlier than starting the ultimate descent to comparatively flat terrain close to a crater often known as Malapert A. To make sure a secure touchdown, the engine primary should cut back the velocity of the spaceship by some. 4,000 mph.

The descent will start with a small rocket fired 75 minutes earlier than landing to depart the low level of the orbit at an altitude of about 6 kilometers. The spacecraft will coast for about an hour earlier than the engine is re-ignited to start the powered descent to the floor.

Descending to an altitude of about 18 miles, Ulysses will flip from a horizontal to a vertical orientation, falling at just below 4 mph. When the spacecraft descends beneath 100 toes, the “EagleCam” imaging system, constructed by college students from Embry-Riddle College, will drop and try to {photograph} the ultimate descent of the lander from the facet.

By the point Odysseus reaches 33 toes above the floor, the principle engine might be throttled right down to the anticipated touchdown velocity of simply 2.2 mph — strolling velocity for seniors.

A graphic illustration of Odysseus' mission factors, from launch to touchdown on the moon.

Intuitive machines

Intuitive Machines says that the flight controllers about 15 seconds to confirm the landing. Information recorded in the course of the descent, together with pictures from the touchdown plume commentary cameras and the deployed EagleCam, might be transmitted again to Earth later.

Odysseus and its experiments are anticipated to function for a couple of week earlier than the solar units on the touchdown website, slicing off solar energy. The spacecraft isn’t designed to outlive the extraordinarily low temperatures of the two-week lunar night time.

“Touchdown on the moon is de facto onerous to do,” mentioned Joel Kearns, NASA's affiliate managing director for exploration. “I believe individuals have seen completely different makes an attempt at this within the final yr, and it's actually onerous. There isn’t a air on the moon, you’ll be able to't use parachutes, it’s a must to use missiles (to decelerate) till the positive

“Intuitive Machines has chosen some actually progressive methods that they’re (utilizing) of their propulsion system,” Kearns mentioned. “They’ve some very nice issues they’ve to point out. This implies they’re doing a whole lot of issues for the primary time.”

Solely america, Russia, China, India and Japan have managed to land on the moon's floor, and Japan's membership in that unique membership comes with an asterisk: its touchdown “SLIM” overturned within the landing on January 19 and failed. all mission targets.

Three privately funded lunar landings had been launched between 2019 and final January, one by an Israeli non-profit, one by a Japanese firm and Astrobotic's Peregrine. All three failed.

Peregrine and Odysseus had been each funded partially by NASA's Industrial Lunar Payload Companies, or CLPS (pronounced “clips”) program, designed to encourage non-public business to develop transportation capabilities that NASA can then use to move payloads helpful to the moon.

The intention of the company is to assist begin the event of recent applied sciences and to gather the information that might be wanted by the Artemis astronauts. They plan to land close to the moon's south pole later this decade.

The company spent about $108 million for its half within the Peregrine mission and one other $129 million for the Odysseus devices and transport to the moon.

“These aren’t NASA missions, they’re business missions,” mentioned Susan Lederer, CLPS mission scientist on the Johnson Area Heart. “These business firms will carry our devices alongside for the trip, enabling our investigations by offering energy, knowledge and [communications] to us

“With the business business comes a aggressive atmosphere, which implies that our preliminary funding in the long run turns into rather more for a lot much less. So as a substitute of 1 mission in a decade, it permits greater than 10 business missions to the moon in a decade.

However the decrease price of the CLPS mission brings with it greater dangers. Classes discovered from Peregrine might be channeled into the event of the corporate's subsequent lander, scheduled for launch later this yr, and different CLPS missions.

“We're studying from what doesn't work, testing a number of applied sciences, conducting experiments at a decrease price and considerably quicker than conventional NASA missions,” Lederer mentioned. “It will permit us to organize for Artemis extra successfully.”

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