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Intuitive Machines goes public to expand business on the moon

A rendering of Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander landing on the moon.
Expanding / A rendering of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander landing on the moon.

intuitive machine

The company that builds spacecraft that land on the moon said Friday it would go public as it seeks to expand the services it offers in the lunar environment.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines said it would merge with a special-purpose acquisition company. Inflection Point Acquisition Corp. The transaction will be completed in approximately four months and the new company will be named Intuitive Machines and will trade on the NASDAQ Exchange under the symbol LUNR.

Intuitive Machines co-founder, president and CEO Steve Altemus said the public offering would raise between $100 million and $400 million in new capital for the company, bringing its capital value to about $1 billion. I was.

“Intuitive Machines is a pioneer in the commercialization of cislunar space,” Altemus said in an interview with Ars. “As we look to extend our lead and place infrastructure around the Sisluna universe, it is time to secure capital, which will give us the financial resources to move on to the next step. “

expansion area

Altemus identified three main areas where Intuitive Machines is looking to grow beyond its initial business. This is to place up to 130 kg of scientific and commercial payloads on the moon with the “Nova-C” lander.

The additional funding will allow the company to begin work on a larger Nova-D lander, Altemus said. The lander is capable of landing her 500-750 kg on the moon and is expected to be eligible for NASA’s Discovery class missions. , and much larger cargo missions.

In addition, Intuitive Machines will work on the development of radioisotope heaters so that the lander can survive the “lunar night”. Over almost the entire surface of the Moon, one day in sunlight lasts 14 days on Earth, and night lasts another 14 days. It gets very cold in the dark, so spacecraft have to take special measures on the moon to survive in this environment. Artemas said being prepared to survive the long lunar nights will greatly increase the value of the scientific and commercial payloads that will be on board the Nova lander.

The company also has a constellation of five satellites in lunar orbit to provide precise location information for assets on the Moon and enable round-the-clock communication between spacecraft there and mission operators on Earth. We want to build. Intuitive Machines will use its network to provide these services not only to its lander, but also to other companies and governments. Finally, Intuitive Machines is also investigating the potential for sample return and satellite services on the Moon.

All of these initiatives are premised on Intuitive Machines’ success in their core business of safely landing on the moon. This is no small feat. In his nearly 50 years of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission landing, no US spacecraft has soft-landed on the moon, and no private company has landed safely on the moon.

private moon landing

As part of a multipronged approach to returning humans to the Moon, NASA, under the auspices of the Artemis program, has paid several US companies to study potential landing areas and collect other data. We offer precursor science missions to collect.

Intuitive Machines is one of the most successful companies to win contracts through this commercial lunar payload services program, flying three NASA missions over the next few years on its Nova-C lander. Each of these three landers will carry various NASA science experiments and a personally purchased payload slot. Altemus said he also sold a purely commercial mission called IM-4 to fly after his first three NASA-sponsored missions.

The company’s first mission, IM-1, was recently postponed from late 2022 to the first quarter of 2023. IM-1, which will be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, has delayed him by more than two years due to various problems, including vehicle issues. A propellant tank that failed during the qualification test. But that issue has been resolved and the spacecraft is now in final assembly, he said.

The new postponement to 2023 was driven in part by a request from NASA to change the landing site from the equatorial region to the lunar south pole. It takes planning and preparation. NASA made changes later in this decade as part of the Artemis III mission to bring the IM-1 mission closer to where it planned to land humans.

“We did all the analysis and did all the design work to reach Antarctica,” Artemas said. “Now we know we can land there on our first mission, which took a few more months. But the spacecraft is working well.”