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WASHINGTON — Intuitive Machines offered a clearer projection of when its first lunar lander mission will launch while also giving a cloudier forecast of its finances.
The company announced Aug. 14 as part of its second quarter financial results that its IM-1 lunar lander mission is slated for launch on a Falcon 9 during a six-day window that opens Nov. 15 at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. A backup launch window is available in December.
During an earnings call, Steve Altemus, chief executive of Intuitive Machines, said the company was wrapping up testing of the Nova-C lander for IM-1 in advance of shipment to Cape Canaveral. “Today, our IM-1 lander is complete and will be prepared for delivery in September.”
He cautioned, though, that the date was subject to availability of the Eastern Range and of LC-39A, which is used for crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and Falcon Heavy launches. “With the congestion for launches using pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, we recognize that higher-priority missions are always possible,” he said.
IM-1 is not only the first lunar lander mission by Intuitive Machines but also potentially the first lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is complete but awaiting the readiness of its launcher, United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur. That rocket’s inaugural flight, with Peregrine as the prime payload, is planned for no earlier than the fourth quarter.
IM-1 is the first of three lunar lander missions that the company has in development as part of CLPS. Altemus said the company is building the lander structure and integrating NASA payloads for the IM-2 mission. He did not give a projected launch date for IM-2, which was once expected to launch before the end of the year, several months after IM-1.
He said the company is awaiting a decision on a proposal for another CLPS mission, designated CP-22 by NASA, to deliver a drill to the lunar south pole. However, he said the agency has delayed the award of that task order from the third quarter of 2023 to November.
The company said schedule slips in contract awards like the CLPS task order was one reason the company was withdrawing earlier financial guidance it offered. The company had earlier forecast revenues of $174 million to $268 million for the year, ending 2023 with a cash balance of $49 million.
Intuitive Machines reported $18 million in revenue in the second quarter, primarily from its CLPS work, down from $19.2 million in the same quarter of 2022. It had an operating loss of $13.2 million and ended the quarter with $39.1 million of cash.
Erik Sallee, chief financial officer of Intuitive Machines, said on the call that “delays on government acquisition timelines and U.S. federal budget uncertainty” led the company to withdraw that guidance. He added it was not linked to any contract losses sustained by the company. “We haven’t lost anything that we previously had in our forecast,” he said. “It all shifted out to the right.”
One of those delays was with a NASA engineering services contract called Omnibus Multidiscipline Engineering Services (OMES) III. Intuitive Machines teamed with KBR to win the contract, valued at up to $719 million over five years, in April. Another bidder, SAIC, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office in May, delaying the start of that work.
The GAO rejected the SAIC protest Aug. 8, allowing NASA to proceed with the OMES III contract award to KBR and Intuitive Machines. The value of OMES III was not included in the company’s backlog of $137.3 million it reported at the end of the second quarter, and Altemus said the company was projecting to start work on that engineering services contract in the fourth quarter.
The company also is bidding on NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle contract to develop rovers to be offered as services for future Artemis crewed missions. Altemus said he expects NASA to make multiple awards under that program, potentially in the fourth quarter.
While the company only has enough cash to last three quarters at its current rate of operating losses, Sallee said that money along with revenue should be sufficient. He added, though, that the company could tap a $50 million equity financing facility “to provide further cushion, if needed.”
Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science... More by Jeff Foust
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