Press Release

NASA Selects Intuitive Machines for Robotic Return to the Moon in 2021

By SpaceRef Editor
May 31, 2019
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Intuitive Machines will join NASA’s new era of lunar exploration with a robotic landing on the Moon in 2021, under a contract award announced today by NASA.

The firm, fixed-price contract for no more than $77,247,500 with an additional incentive of $2,500,000 calls for Intuitive Machines to develop, launch and land its Nova-C spacecraft on the lunar surface with a payload of NASA and private experiments. The mission will be the first under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The award places Intuitive Machines on a path to become one of the first private U.S. companies to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

“We are grateful for the tremendous privilege and honor to be awarded this contract. I have dreamed of going to the Moon since, as an 11-year-old boy, I saw Neil Armstrong’s historic first step onto that new world. Today, Intuitive Machines begins a journey back to the Moon in the culmination of my boyhood dream,” said Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, Executive Chairman of Intuitive Machines.

“All of us at Intuitive Machines have great passion for space and exploration,” said Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines. “Our experience in developing autonomous systems, precision navigation, and cryogenic propulsion lends itself perfectly to the challenge of landing Nova-C on the Moon. In our first mission, we provide lunar science payload delivery and technology advancement for NASA, academia, and our strategic partner Boeing.”

“Our vision is to take the challenge of this historic step with an eye toward a permanent presence on the Moon,” said Dr. Tim Crain, Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Architect. “We are working with Boeing to extend core Nova-C technologies of propulsion and automation to the development of large scale and human landers.”

“We are very excited about this incredible opportunity to once again put the United States on the surface of the Moon,” Altemus adds.  “We have a strong team of brilliant minds motivated to accomplish this mission. We have worked relentlessly over the past few years and we will continue to do so until we land the Nova-C on the Moon and put boots on the ground shortly thereafter.”

The lunar payload and delivery service business of Intuitive Machines encompasses small, medium and large landers as well as the development of lunar infrastructure that will pave the way for planetary missions. The 2021 Nova-C mission will have a payload capacity of 220 pounds (100 kg) and transmit scientific data back to Earth during 13.5 days of activity on the Moon’s surface.

Nova-C uses a first-in-class, deep-throttling liquid oxygen/methane engine that is scalable to landers of different sizes. Intuitive Machines also is working to enable space exploration beyond the Moon with its development and implementation of space-storable cryogenic propellants.

About Intuitive Machines Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, Steve Altemus, and Dr. Tim Crain founded Intuitive Machines in 2013. Intuitive Machines was born as a think tank with the objective of applying human spaceflight methodologies and principles that enable low-cost solutions while managing the highest complexity and safety levels for autonomous systems. Intuitive Machines was formed from deep practical experience in the development of large, complex space systems. The people of Intuitive Machines use technical knowledge honed over decades of human spaceflight to provide risk-based decision-making, redundancy management, fault tolerance and isolation, quality and safety, reliability, maintainability, verification testing, and operations. For more information on Intuitive Machines, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.