NASA Payloads for (Task Order) TO2-IM – Intuitive Machines Nova-C Lander

Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator (LN-1)​

The Earth and Moon hover against a dark background on opposite sides. On the Moon, graphics represent a rover and landers. A satellite is positioned above Earth, representing a “ground station,” while instruments positioned on the Moon represent rovers and landers. A CubeSat hovers over the Moon. A network of data sharing occurs between the objects, represented by arrows and red wavy lines. They are pointing in different directions to indicate communications between the objects.

This is a lunar navigation concept of operations with Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) Algorithm Implementation. It demonstrates a network of communication amongst local surface and orbital operations. Transfers of MAPS algorithms are represented by dotted arrows while GPS signals are indicated by black and red waves. Credit: NASA/MSFC

  • Summary:  CubeSat-sized flight hardware experiment that integrates navigation and communication functionality for autonomous navigation to support future surface and orbital operations. LN-1 uses Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) algorithms and standard GPS-like navigation signal (specifically, one-way pseudonoise ranging codes), which is akin to using GPS on the Earth. Through installation of S-band beacons on the surface, this local navigation network would act like a series of lighthouses and help guide incoming vehicles to land with high precision, departing vehicles to insert themselves into an accurate orbit and reduce their fuel requirements, orbital vehicles maintain knowledge of their orbit, and direct autonomous vehicles across a planetary surface. These beacons could be deployed as hosted payloads on mobile and static assets or as independent infrastructure.
  • Type of Instrument: Navigation Beacon  
  • Key Measurement: Transmits multiple types of radio signals that can be used to measure distance
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA MSFC
  • Payload PI: Dr. Evan Anzalone

Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies (SCALPSS)

One of the SCALPSS cameras is attached securely to a metal receptacle. The section directly touching the camera is golden and the larger mount behind is silver. Wiring connects the camera to items outside the frame: a silver pair of wires is attached at the top and red wire is attached to the front with blue adhesive.

One of the four cameras that will capture information about the lander’s descent and assess how it affects the lunar surface. The stereo cameras will capture images and data of the plume (column of exhaust gases) and surface area below the lander. Credit: NASA/LaRC

A graphic image of the landing process SCALPSS will capture. Orange, yellow, and green streaks extend downward from a grey lander toward the surface, which represents a column of exhaust gases. The colors abruptly transition at the surface to a bright blue ring surrounded by turquoise; these represent materials from the lunar surface that will rise and be spurred into movement by the lander’s engines while it descends. The turquoise forms what appears to be mounds of dust that surround the landing area.

This generated model represents the type of 3D images the SCALPSS cameras will produce. The orange, yellow, and green column is plume (column of exhaust gases)  from the engines during landing/descent. The turquoise and blue represent displaced dust from the lunar surface. Credit: NASA/LaRC

SCALPSS is hovering near the ground above a sizable dust cloud caused by lander plume. The shape of the structure consists of four silver spheres clustered adjacent to each other, with each sphere containing a camera. Two pairs of adjoined legs extend down from the bottom. In the background, a blue-sky is visible.

SCALPSS is being tested at Kennedy Space Center. The system is a suite of four identical cameras designed to capture coverage of the lander plume and its effects on the surface below. This demonstration mimics the coverage SCALPSS will get in a lunar landing, which will include 3D images. Credit: NASA/KSC

  • Summary: SCALPSS will use four cameras (two stereo pairs) that will capture video and still image data of the lander’s descent engine plume of dust as the plume starts to impact the lunar surface until after engine shut off. Data will be used to assess the effect of the engine plumes on the landing site, the landing vehicle, and nearby assets and sites, resulting in better predictive capabilities to lower risk and ensure landing success, which is critical for future lunar and Mars vehicle designs. SCALPSS leverages camera technology used on the Mars 2020 rover.
  • Type of Instrument: Cameras
  • Key Measurement: video and still images - validation data for plume-surface interaction analysis. Returns data for the onset, rate, shape, and volume of the plume crater formation.
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA LaRC
  • Payload PI: Michelle Munk

Note: See also TO19D-Firefly


Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the photo Electron Sheath (ROLSES)

Four sensors sit on a table connected with a series of silver-colored wires.  Each sensor consists of a silver base plate with a black cylinder attached at a 45-degree angle. At the end of the cylinder sits a silver flat plate, which angle varies from sensor to sensor.

ROLSES will determine the density of the electron sheath of the Moon using a low-frequency radio receiver system. It will also have the capability to detect a few events that are present in the solar system, such as, solar radio bursts, radio emission from Jupiter, etc. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC

  • Summary: Just above the surface of the Moon is a very, very thin layer (or sheath) of electrons that come in part from electrons that are knocked out of individual lunar dust/regolith molecules by photons of UV light from the Sun during the daytime, and in part from the solar wind (electrons and ions). At twilight, this can charge lunar dust, so it levitates and creates a hazy horizon. The ROLSES payload will employ a low-frequency radio receiver system to determine the density of this electron sheath. The instrument is a low-frequency radio spectrometer to provide radio spectra (from 10 kHz - 10 MHz, or possibly 30 MHz) ~0-2 m above the lunar surface, using antennas at 1 m and 2 m above the surface. ROLSES will also detect solar radio bursts, radio emissions from Jupiter, dust impacting the surface of the moon, and how radio noisy the Earth is. These measurements will aide future exploration missions by demonstrating the plasma environment astronauts or other exploration systems will encounter on the Moon and a baseline for a sensitive future radio observatory on the Moon.
  • Type of Instrument: low-frequency radio astronomy receiver system
  • Key Measurement: electron sheath density and scale height; radio emissions from the Earth, Sun, and planets; dust impacts
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA GSFC
  • Payload PI: Dr. Nat Gopalswamy

Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing (NDL)​

Three telescopes are sitting to the left of the payload which is the shape of a rectangular box. The telescopes are a dark blue color all mounted on the same piece of equipment. The payload box is a silver grey with black knobs on the front side.

NDL is pictured with its three telescopes (left) and the chassis that contains the electronics and photonics (right). Credit: NASA/LaRC

The black background contrasts with the light grey graphic surface of the moon. The simulated lander starts in a sideways position in the top left corner then slowly starts to turn and get lower to the surface step by step. There are four images of the lander until it lands on the surface. The last lander position hovers over a small yellow circle, indicating the dispersion ellipse.

Artist’s concept of a lander descending to the lunar surface with assistance from NDL and its predicted dispersion ellipse. Credit: NASA/LaRC

  • Summary: NDL is a LIDAR-based (Light Detection and Ranging) descent and landing sensor. This instrument operates on the same principles of radar but uses pulses of light from a laser instead of radio waves. NDL measures vehicle velocity (speed and direction) and altitude (distance to ground) with high precision during descent from over 5 km altitude to touchdown. NDL consists of a chassis containing electronics and photonics and an optical head with three small telescopes for transmitting laser beams and collecting the returns from the ground.  The chassis and the optical head are connected by 3 fiber optic cables. NDL measurements allow for precision navigation to the designated landing location and enable a tightly controlled soft touchdown on the surface of the Moon and other planetary bodies.
  • Type of Instrument: Guidance and navigation sensor
  • Key Measurement: Velocity (speed and direction) and altitude (distance to ground) from 5km altitude
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA LaRC
  • Payload PI: Daniel Litton

Radio Frequency Mass Gauge (RFMG)

  • Summary: Antennae that are installed inside the liquid oxygen and liquid methane fuel tanks of the lander to gauge the quantity of liquid fuel as it is used. A goal of long-range space missions in the future is the ability to use cryogenic propellants.
  • Type of Instrument: Low-gravity propellant quantity gauge
  • Key Measurement:   The mass of fuel in the lander’s fuel tanks
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA GRC
  • Payload PI:  Dr. Greg Zimmerli


Laser Retroreflector (LRA)

The device is a gold-colored ball with a large square flat plate running through the middle and out the sides of the sphere. The gold-colored sphere is hollow with many holes going through it. These holes have a black edge as well as are equidistant from one another.

The Laser Retroreflector (LRA) is pictured with its gold painted aluminum hemisphere and eight cube prism retroreflectors. This will then be mounted on the lander deck to which will help precision measurement of the distance between orbiting or landing spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC

The Moon’s surface is presented in grey hues with black space in the background. An orbiter is hovering above the surface with graphic images to represent the laser for measurements. There are three orbiters to represent the different positions possible in orbit. In the center of the crater, on the surface of the moon, sits a yellow star to represent the lander’s position.

This generated image shows how the LRA will be located on the surface of the Moon so orbiting space craft can retroreflect to find a precise distance. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC


  • Summary: A retroreflector bounces any light that shines on it directly backward (180deg from the incoming light). The LRA is a collection of eight of these, each a 1.25-cm diameter glass corner cube prism, all embedded in an aluminum hemisphere (painted gold as shown here) and is mounted to the lander deck. This design ensures that the LRA can retroreflect (i.e., bounce) laser light from other orbiting and landing spacecraft over a wide range of incoming directions and efficiently retroreflect the laser signal directly back at the originating spacecraft. This enables precision laser ranging, which is a measurement of the distance between the orbiting or landing spacecraft to the LRA on the lander. The LRA is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent fiducial (i.e., location) marker on the Moon for decades to come. (Note: this LRA design is too small for laser ranging from the Earth).
  • Type of Instrument: Passive optical device that reflects laser light directly backward (for laser ranging)
  • Key Measurement: Precise distances
  • Task Order: CLPS TO2-IM (2/20C/OP)
  • Lead Development Organization: NASA GSFC
  • Payload PI: Dr. Xiaoli Sun

Note: See also TO2-AB, TO20A-VIPER, and PRIME-1