Nova-C IM-1 [Intuitive Machines]
Nova-C is a lunar lander privately developed by Intuitive Machines for the Google Lunar-X-Prize and later offered commercially.
In May 2019, Intuitive Machines' Nova-C was selected by NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum by July 2021 to support the Artemis lunar program.
In early 2023, the mission target was shifted to the south polar region, requiring modifications for the different environment.
The Nova-C lander will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) rocket in 2023.
Following NASA payloads have been selected for the mission:
- Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator (LN-1): LN-1 is a CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation to support future surface and orbital operations. It has flown on the ISS and is being developed at NASA Marshall.
- Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies (SCALPSS): SCALPSS will capture video and still image data of the lander’s plume as the plume starts to impact the lunar surface until after engine shut off, which is critical for future lunar and Mars vehicle designs. It is being developed at NASA Langley, and also leverages camera technology used on the Mars 2020 rover.
- Low-frequency Radio Observations for the Near Side Lunar Surface (ROLSES): ROLSES will use a low-frequency radio receiver system to determine photoelectron sheath density and scale height. These measurements will aide future exploration missions by demonstrating if there will be an effect on the antenna response or larger lunar radio observatories with antennas on the lunar surface. In addition, the ROLSES measurements will confirm how well a lunar surface-based radio observatory could observe and image solar radio bursts. It is being developed at NASA Goddard.
- Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing (NDL): The NDL is a light detection and ranging-based (LIDAR) sensor composed of a three-beam optical head and a box with electronics and photonics that will provide extremely precise velocity and range sensing during descent and landing of the NOVA-C that will tightly control navigation precision for a soft and controlled touchdown on the Moon. NDL is being developed by Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
- Radio Frequency Mass Gauging (RFMG): The RFMG is a propellant sweeping/measuring device using a low-power RF signal to measure changes in fluid level and liquid configuration. This is a legacy NASA payload previously flown on the ISS. The device is located within the propellant tank and operates at ultra-low power levels for tank monitoring only
- Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA): LRA is a collection of eight 1.25 centimeter retro-reflectors — a unique kind of mirror that is used for measuring distance—mounted to the NOVA-C. This mirror reflects laser light from other orbiting and landing spacecraft to precisely determine the NOVA-C’s position.
Additionally, following commercial payloads are on board:
- SPACEBIT Rover: Upon landing, the NOVA-C will deploy the SPACEBIT Rover on the lunar surface primarily for technology demonstration operations
- EagleCAM: The EagleCAM camera unit will be released just prior to landing, approximately 30 meters above the lunar surface, taking pictures of the dust plume as the NOVA-C descends. EagleCAM is intended to capture the first-ever third person view of a spacecraft extraterrestrial landing and to uncover new scientific findings through dust plume imagery, dust accumulation analysis, and lunar surface imagery
- ILO-X Telescope: The International Lunar Observatory Association (“ILOA Hawaii”) ILO-X telescope experiment for imaging the arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The instrument includes a dualcamera miniaturized lunar imaging suite that aims to capture some of the first images of the Milky Way Galaxy Center from the surface of the Moon, as well as performing other exploration technology validations – including functionality and survivability in the lunar environment. The ILO-X uses the same camera type as the EagleCAM payload.
- Tiger Eye: Tiger Eye is a commercially developed radiation measurement sensor modified for space applications, the effectiveness of which will be tested in the lunar environment. The Tiger Eye has previously flown on the ISS.
- Galactic Legacy Labs (GLL): The GLL is a passive data cache (etched metal storage units) mounted on the NOVA-C containing information about the Earth, similar to the golden records attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.