Space Succesfully Sends Nova-C Odysseus Lunar Lander To Space

Veloz Lamma

Space Succesfully Sends Nova-C Odysseus Lunar Lander To Space

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SpaceX’s latest NASA launch saw it complete two launches in less than twelve hours, and both were non-Starlink payloads. NASA launched its second lunar lander mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida less than an hour after midnight today after partnering up with Intutivive Machines for a lunar lander that will use a powerful engine to speed up its journey. Intuitive Machines’s Nova-C lander is the second launch under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, and the lander is due to land on the Moon later this month.

As part of its preparations for today’s mission, Intuitive Machines, whose lander was developed in the same time that it takes to complete a college degree, has extensively tested landing a spacecraft by using a methane-powered engine – providing teams at Intuitive Machines’ control center confidence for the final seconds of Nova-C’s powered descent to the lunar surface.

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Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander is the second mission for NASA’s CLPS program, which kicks off lunar exploration as it and SpaceX work for the first crewed lunar lander launch with the Artemis 3 mission on SpaceX’s Starship and the SLS. After a successful liftoff at 1:05 local time in Florida, the lander established communications with ground stations less than an hour afterward.  As part of its post-separation checkouts, the lander will have to orient itself with the Sun in order to generate power and start its methane engine.

This engine means that the Nova-C will reach the Moon much faster, evident by the fact that despite the launch slipping by a day, the landing date is still currently February 22nd. Intuitive Machines tested the Nova-C’s rocket engine in Texas, and it is one of the few sent in space so far on a lander that is completely manufactured via composite 3D printing processes.

The Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander. Image: Intuitive Machines

As of now, the Nova-C has successfully established communications with the command center. Intuitive Machines’s latest update shared that the vehicle is testing and turning on its guidance and navigation sensors to achieve a solar pointing orientation and generate power. The lander will spend the next week or so traveling to the far side of the Moon, where it will undergo a lunar orbit insertion maneuver to achieve a circular orbit around the Moon.

Nova-C will complete nearly a dozen lunar orbits, and its descent will rely on Intuitive Machines’ brand new 3D printed engine, which uses the same fuel as SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket. To start its descent, the lander’s engine will fire and lower its altitude to 10 kilometers above the lunar surface.

The powered descent initiation phase of the landing will use data from the guidance system and run the engine at full power for roughly ten minutes. This will see the engine act as a brake and reduce the lander’s speed. The final stages of the descent will see Nova-C Odysseus slow down to one meter per second, with its inertial measurement unit acting as a crucial component for a successful landing. The final fifteen seconds will be the most crucial since flight controllers on Earth will be able to confirm a landing during this time.

Should the lander successfully land, it will have a week to allow NASA and other Intuitive customers to run their science missions. After this,  the lander will be unable to generate power due to a lack of sunlight at its landing site on the lunar South Pole.

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