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SpaceX Postpones Private Moon Lander Launch Over Methane Fuel Concerns

Spacex Postpones Intuitive Machines Moon Lander Launch

SpaceX had to delay the launch of a private moon lander constructed by intuitive machines on Tuesday (Feb. 13) because of a temperature problem with the spacecraft’s liquid methane fuel.

The Odysseus moon lander was initially planned to be launched towards the moon on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the early morning hours of Wednesday (Feb. 14) from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The new scheduled liftoff time is Thursday (Feb. 15) at 1:05 a.m. EST (0605 GMT).

We regret to inform you that tonight’s attempt has been canceled due to unexpected methane temperature readings before loading the methane,” SpaceX announced in a late-night update on X (formerly Twitter).

The Odysseus moon lander from Intuitive Machines utilizes liquid methane as a propellant for its propulsion and landing systems. The propellant will be loaded into the lander shortly before launch. According to an update from NASA, SpaceX discovered “improper methane temperatures” during the preparations.

Odysseus is set to transport a total of six NASA instruments to the moon, in addition to several commercial payloads.

SpaceX and Intuitive Machines have a specific three-day window from Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 to launch the Odysseus moon lander and ensure a successful moon landing on Feb. 22. Following that, there is a possibility that the next launch attempt may be delayed until March. The mission, known as IM-1, represents Intuitive Machines’ inaugural lunar landing endeavor, with the objective of reaching a crater in the vicinity of the lunar south pole.

Spacex Postpones Intuitive Machines Moon Lander Launch

If everything goes according to plan, IM-1 will be a historic milestone as the first private mission to successfully land on the moon. This upcoming lunar landing will mark a significant milestone as it will be the first one conducted by the United States since 1972. The previous successful landing was accomplished by the esteemed astronauts of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. IM-1 is the second mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which utilizes private spacecraft to transport experiments to the moon.

Last month, Astrobotic, a rival private company to Intuitive Machines, faced a setback when its Peregrine lander failed to reach the lunar surface. The mission was launched on Jan. 8 using a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. However, a fuel leak occurred during the flight, preventing any landing attempt. Instead, the Peregrine lander completed a loop around the moon before safely reentering Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrating.

NASA and Intuitive Machines are optimistic about Odysseus’ potential for success, following Peregrine’s unsuccessful attempt. The spacecraft is equipped with cutting-edge technology experiments, state-of-the-art cameras, and various gear that will greatly enhance NASA’s readiness for future Artemis astronaut missions to the moon.


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