MOREHEAD, Ky. — Morehead State’s Space Science Center (SSC) continues its involvement with NASA’s Artemis program and the Moon to Mars initiative with the upcoming launch of Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission.
A mission’s launch window opens Wednesday and will send the Nova-C lunar lander named Odysseus to the Moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. CLPS is a key part of NASA’s lunar exploration efforts.
The SSC at Morehead will be among the primary ground stations for the mission. Students in the space systems engineering program will provide telemetry, tracking, and command services for the mission, meaning they will communicate with the spacecraft and collect data it is transmitting back to Earth. MSU students will also track a NASA payload that IM-1 is carrying to the Moon called Lunar Node 1.
The SSC at Morehead is part of Houston-based Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Data Network, which includes locations in England, South Africa and Australia.
Dr. Ben Malphrus, executive director of the Space Science Center, said this will be the next time a commercial company is sending a lander to the Moon on a commercial rocket — two giant leaps for the aerospace industry.
“We’ll be helping these guys make history,” Malphrus said.
The mission will last approximately two weeks. It will take about nine days for the lander to reach the Moon, and it will spend one week collecting data before lunar night falls and temperatures drop so low that the lander’s electronics won’t function.
Intuitive Machines is a diversified space exploration company focused on pioneering the commercial landscape of outer space – with a “North Star” of landing the United States on the Moon. Intuitive Machines believes that their first lunar missions are the spark that will ignite the commercial development of the Moon as a destination of scientific achievement and will serve as a commercial blueprint to explore our solar system.
Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lunar mission is targeted for a multiday launch window, which opens February 14, 2024.
The Lunar Node 1 payload that is part of the IM-1 mission is an S-band navigation beacon to be placed on the Moon. It was designed and built at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).