Intuitive Machines, Inc, has recently inaugurated its Lunar Production and Operations Center at the Houston Spaceport in Houston, Texas, USA. This centre is intended to act as an addition to lunar access capabilities for the United States, NASA, and global commercial partners, serving these via technologies such as Additive Manufacturing.
The facility is now fully operational to support Intuitive Machines’ three missions awarded by NASA. The Lunar Production and Operations Center is designed to accommodate the company’s four core business units and serves as a link between Earth and the Moon, facilitating sustainable, safe, and efficient human and robotic space exploration.
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At a press conference held on September 29, 2023, Intuitive Machines confirmed that its first mission lunar lander, Nova-C, will be shipped from the new facility in the coming days before its upcoming launch. This mission aims to deliver NASA and commercial payloads to the south pole of the Moon, which will be the United States’ first attempted soft landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.
“The Moon is no longer a distant dream; it’s a destination within our grasp, and this facility is our lunar gateway – a national asset,” shared Steve Altemus, co-founder, president and Chief Executive Officer of Intuitive Machines. “We’re proud that the United States’ return to The Moon will have Houston, Texas, stamped on the shipping container that will leave this facility for launch, and we look forward to working under a roof that matches the technical excellence our employees demonstrate each day.”
Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation for Houston Airports, added, “Today’s celebration confirms that Houston is home to the fastest growing commercial spaceport on the planet and is also home to the first and only five-star airport in North America. The skies and the stars are fast converging, and the merger is reshaping the way we think about travel, innovation and human potential. We are delighted to join Intuitive Machines in endeavouring towards a future where humanity’s reach extends even further than we can dare to imagine today.”
The new 9,808 m2 headquarters will function as the operations centre for the company’s lunar programme. It will have the capability to manufacture multiple lunar landers and spacecraft simultaneously.
Intuitive Machines is one of the three anchor tenants at the Houston Spaceport. Its project began in 2021 and includes advanced manufacturing and production spaces, Additive Manufacturing areas, machine shops, research and development laboratories, clean rooms, and large-scale spacecraft assembly areas in its design.
The facility boasts features such as mission control rooms for tracking and managing lunar missions, as well as a propulsion test facility to evaluate the capabilities of lunar lander engines. In addition to these, the headquarters houses offices, meeting areas, conference rooms, and other amenities for both Intuitive Machines and its partners.
The ‘flame range’ facility is a distinctive structure comprising a 353 m2 reinforced concrete chamber surrounded by a 7.62 m high perimeter wall. This wall encloses an additional 604 m2 yard and is said to offer several advantages for Intuitive Machines’ testing protocols. For propulsion systems to be deemed safe and ready for use, they must meet rigorous performance requirements that are verified through multiple testing protocols.
The proximity of the testing facility to Intuitive Machines’ manufacturing operations offers several benefits. Firstly, it leads to significant savings in testing setup costs and streamlined logistics. Additionally, locating the testing facility next to the headquarters enables Intuitive Machines to make adjustments quickly, utilising all of its manufacturing capabilities. Engineers now have the ability to produce engine prototypes and parts on-demand, allowing them to conduct tests on even small, incremental changes in engine design.