Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Intuitive Machines IM-1 Looking Good for Landing Attempt

In the "no news is good news" category, since last Thursday's (very) early morning launch of Intuitive Machines IM-1 Odysseus moon lander mission, everything has gone by the book and not made news.   Odysseus completed two engine burns in deep space on Feb. 16 and Feb. 18 and is sailing on the right course through space, the company said on X. If you go to that link, the graphic in this post is an animated .gif, although the only things you'll see moving are the shadow/light area on the right and some reflections at top left.

The stakes go up again Wednesday the 21st when the engines will burn for Lunar Orbit Insertion, a critical milestone which controllers are calling "Odysseus' largest challenge to date." The exact time for that hasn't been announced and the burn will occur on the far side of the moon, so out of radio contact.  It's the biggest velocity change of all the maneuvers to date, changing velocity 800-900 m/s (note the one described above was a 21 m/s change).  I have to assume the exact number will be calculated based on the speed and trajectory as known some time before the attempt.  

Source: Intuitive Machines on X

This lander mission is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program or CLPS. The 12 payloads on board Odysseus include six NASA instruments.  CLPS aims to fly NASA science payloads to the moon on a set of private landers, to scout ahead of Artemis missions. 

[Odysseus'] landing site is a tiny crater roughly 190 miles (300 kilometers) from the moon's south pole, about where NASA hopes to place astronauts later in the 2020s under the agency's Artemis program of lunar exploration. Artemis 3 is now scheduled to make the historic landing in 2026 or so, following a recent delay for several technical reasons.

Back in early January, it was announced that the first Artemis landing on the moon, Artemis 3, would be delayed until 2026 due to technical problems discussed at that link.

Odysseus, whose mission is known as IM-1, is the second CLPS mission to fly in 2024. Astrobotic flew the Peregrine lander into space on Jan. 8 on board the first launch of United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket

While its launch went well, a fuel leak aboard Peregrine forced controllers to aim the lander instead for a controlled destruction in Earth's atmosphere on Jan. 18.

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