Intuitive Machines has become one of the first commercial companies to land on the Moon’s surface, and Western Australia has played an important role.

Specifically, Fugro Australia’s Space Automation, AI and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC), located in Perth, has shadowed operations for contingency and to pave the way for supporting future Artemis missions.

Intuitive Machines, who developed the Nova-C lunar lander, is a US-based exploration and infrastructure company that has conducted its first mission to the Moon, IM-1. The mission has delivered commercial payloads and NASA science and technology payloads. These will pave the way for a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface, and beyond.

Intuitive Machines runs Nova Control, the nerve centre of the IM-1 lunar mission operations in Houston, Texas. The operations centre hosts mission controllers in a collaborative circular environment with access to mission-critical and support software, including VoIP voice system.

Nova Control is commercially offered, and the mission-critical command and control software, Nova Core, is developed and sustained in-house with contingency operations achieved in partnership with SpAARC in WA.

An artist's impression of Intuitive Machines' lander that will deliver technology and experiments to the Moon. Credit: Intuitive Machines
An artist's impression of Intuitive Machines' lander that will deliver technology and experiments to the Moon.
Image credit: Intuitive Machines

Samuel Forbes, Director Fugro’s SpAARC, said the partnership with Intuitive Machines, inclusive of the IM-1 mission, leverages SpAARC’s operational expertise.

“(It) allows us to demonstrate and build our capability in providing mission operations as a service in support of complex and deep space missions including Moon to Mars initiatives and the growing space economy.”

“Currently, SpAARC’s involvement is strategic and foundational, aimed at setting the stage for more substantial support past the IM-1 Mission,” he said.

A promotional graphic
Image credit: Intuitive Machines

Australian space infrastructure open for business

According to Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency: “The partnership between Fugro’s SpAARC and Intuitive Machines lays the groundwork for Australian industry to contribute further to this next generation of global space exploration.”

“SpAARC uses the knowledge and expertise that exists in other Australian industries to grow our involvement in the space sector, while expanding capability in cutting-edge technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence,” he added.

SpAARC opened in November 2022 with funding support from the Australian Space Agency. It is one of Australia’s state-of-the-art space facilities open to business for national and international customers. 

CSIRO’s space facilities, specifically its ground station network infrastructure, is well positioned to support IM missions. In 2021 CSIRO joined Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Data Network, which will see Murriyang (the Parkes radio telescope) support IM-1.

Advanced Navigation, a Sydney-based company, will also assist future IM missions. It has developed space innovations with support from the Agency’s Moon to Mars initiative.

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