Intuitive Machines and NASA Finalize Contract for Extreme Lunar Mobility Spacecraft
Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Intuitive Machines is building NASA a mini extreme mobility lunar vehicle. Micro-Nova will hop around the Moon’s surface and take the first-ever pictures inside craters on the lunar south pole.
On July 16, 2021, NASA and Intuitive Machines finalized a $41.6 million Tipping Point contract to develop, fly, and operate a deployable “hopper lander” on the Moon. For this mission design, Micro-Nova can carry a 1-kilogram payload more than 2.5 kilometers to access lunar craters and enable high-resolution surveying of the lunar surface under the flight path. “Micro-Nova can fly into a lava tube and report that image back to the people on Earth,” said Dr. Tim Crain, Intuitive Machines’ co-founder and chief technology officer. “The technologies are well understood and it’s a subset of what we’re already doing with our lunar lander, Nova-C. To see Micro-Nova come together and fly, I couldn’t wish for a better thing in my career.” With landing gear, Micro-Nova is about 76.2-centimeters in length, width, and height, which is roughly the size of five one-dollar bills. Intuitive Machines engineers will mount Micro-Nova on a nearly four-meter Nova-C lander, which is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Nova-C will deliver Micro-Nova to the lunar south pole in December 2022.
“Intuitive Machines’ Micro-Nova is our first-ever chance to explore from within a lunar permanently shaded region (PSR),” says the mission science lead Mark Robinson of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “We will be able to take very high-resolution color images near Micro-Nova and black and white images of about half the PSR. What will we see? That is the question!”
"There are world-class scientists at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration," said Crain. "Their knowledge of scientific questions and how to get data to answer those questions on the Moon coupled with our understanding of engineering systems and how to put instruments in place to collect that data, it's really magical."
About Intuitive Machines
Intuitive Machines' complete lunar program unlocks the lunar economy to explore the solar system further and gain knowledge for the progress of humanity. As the premier provider of space services and technologies, Intuitive Machines is reestablishing the United States' dominance on the ultimate high ground, the Moon. Designed by the greatest minds in spaceflight, IM's lunar program will send the first American spacecraft to the surface of the Moon since the Apollo program and send the first spacecraft ever to reach the lunar south pole.
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.