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US makes second attempt at commercial Moon landing

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US makes second attempt at commercial Moon landing

The US is taking another stab at landing a privately owned and operated spacecraft on the Moon. At 1:05 am EST today, the Odysseus lander lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 29A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Today’s night launch took place during an instantaneous launch window after a 24-hour delay due to unusually high temperature in the methane fuel for the booster. When the countdown reached zero, the Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission carrying the Nova-C class Odysseus lifted off from the pad without incident. According to SpaceX, this was the 18th flight of the Falcon 9 1st stage booster.

At the one-minute 12-second mark, the rocket passed through Max Q, which is the point where the craft is under peak mechanical stress. Main engine cutoff came at two minutes 14 seconds, with the second stage separating three seconds later, followed by the second stage engine ignition 12 seconds after that. Meanwhile, the first stage began its maneuvers to take it back to the Kennedy Space Center for a powered landing.

When the fairing was jettisoned, a spring ejected the lander, which is now in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, and after commissioning of the spacecraft the methane/oxygen main engine will fire to send Odysseus into a translunar orbit. After arrival in lunar orbit, the lander is scheduled to touch down on the Moon on February 22 at Malapert A crater near the lunar south pole.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), Odysseus is carrying out a number of the space agency’s experiments, including a laser reflector array, a Doppler lidar for precise navigation, and a CubeSat that will be deployed before landing to act as a radio beacon. In addition, there are four commercial payloads.

According to Intuitive Machines, Odysseus is about the size of a Tardis, if you happen to have one handy for comparison. If you don’t, it’s about four meters (13 ft) tall and weighs about 1,908 kg (4,206 lb). It’s solar powered, generating about 200 W, and is expected to operate on the lunar surface for one lunar day before the freezing dark of the lunar night renders it inoperative.

Source: SpaceX

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