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NASA: SpaceX Rocket Launches Lunar Lander 'Odysseus'

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:05 a.m. this morning, Feb. 15
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:05 a.m. this morning, Feb. 15

Florida - Thursday February 15, 2024: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a lunar lander built by a private company took off from the Kennedy Space Center early this morning en-route to the moon.

The NOVA-C, dubbed Odysseus, was built by Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based aerospace company.

It's the second attempt this year to put an American built spacecraft back on the surface of the Moon in more than 50 years. The last successful U.S. moon landing occurred when Apollo 17 touched down on the surface of the moon in December 1972. The Peregrine Mission 1 mission, launched on January 8 this year, failed to reach the moon, after the lander suffered a critical loss of propellant shortly after separation from the Vulcan rocket.

Odysseus lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 1:05 a.m. Thursday morning. It is carrying NASA science and commercial instruments to the Moon. They will provide insights into the lunar surface environment and test technologies for future landers and Artemis astronauts.

Odysseus is scheduled to land on the Moon’s South Pole on Thursday February 22, near the lunar feature known as Malapert-A. This relatively flat and safe region is within the otherwise heavily cratered southern highlands on the side of the Moon visible from Earth. Landing near Malapert-A will also help mission planners understand how to communicate and send data back to Earth from a location where Earth is low on the lunar horizon. 

NASA science aboard the lander includes:

  • Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator: A small, CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation that could be used by future landers, surface infrastructure, and astronauts, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other spacecraft, ground stations, or rovers on the move.
  • Laser Retroreflector Array: A collection of eight retroreflectors that enable precision laser ranging, which is a measurement of the distance between the orbiting or landing spacecraft to the reflector on the lander. The array is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent location marker on the Moon for decades to come.   
  • Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing: A Lidar-based (Light Detection and Ranging) guidance system for descent and landing. This instrument operates on the same principles of radar but uses pulses from a laser emitted through three optical telescopes. It will measure speed, direction, and altitude with high precision during descent and touchdown.   
  • Radio Frequency Mass Gauge: A technology demonstration that measures the amount of propellant in spacecraft tanks in a low-gravity space environment. Using sensor technology, the gauge will measure the amount of cryogenic propellant in Nova-C’s fuel and oxidizer tanks, providing data that could help predict fuel usage on future missions.   
  • Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Photoelectron Sheath: The instrument will observe the Moon’s surface environment in radio frequencies, to determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface interacts with and could interfere with science conducted there.
  • Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies: A suite of four tiny cameras to capture imagery showing how the Moon’s surface changes from interactions with the spacecraft’s engine plume during and after descent.

Learn more about NASA’s CLPS initiative at: