CEO of Intuitive Machines on the future of moon missions

Get ready to ascend to the next generation! Following Intuitive Machines’ (LUNR) successful moon landing in February, the space exploration company is teaming up with NASA, along with Boeing (BA) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) to develop a new Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV).

Intuitive Machines President and CEO Steve Altmus sits down with Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita at the 2024 Milken Conference to discuss some of the regulatory risks of expanding into commercial space projects, as well as the excitement surrounding several of the company’s latest plans and lunar craft Company.

“Well, we designed and developed a mission to the moon at a cost of roughly $118 million, and we did that in about four years. We have completely disrupted the industry when it comes to the economics of flying to the moon. That’s a success,” Altmus says of Intuitive Machines’ work with NASA. “Then look at how we carried out the mission, despite all the challenges and trials as we traveled to the moon, over 200,000 miles away. And we solved every problem along the way.”

See more coverage from Yahoo Finance at the 2024 Milken Institute Global Conference.

This post was written by Luke Carberry Mogan.

Video transcription

I’m here at the Beverly Hilton in LA on the floor for the Milk Institute Global Conference. We’re talking about space exploration and the new space economy. We ended up here with me. He is the founder, CEO and president of a machine. Well spoken today. Very timely conversation here given today’s announcement or what we’re looking at today. Boeing may launch their first crewed cap to the International Space Station. They are one of your partners in the coming um LTV. But I’m curious how you view this in the context of positives, like upstarts like yourself. Although you probably wouldn’t call yourself an upstart, um, and then the company Legacy Space. It’s been quite a journey I would say it’s been a journey for both of us, right? We actually started our company in the Boeing Space Exploration Building, believe it or not, and I have great relationships with them, and I’m really proud. Let me first say that because of Boeing’s perseverance on the Starliner, it has been a real challenge for them to get their spacecraft ready and safe for our astronauts and I think they are ready to go. I am very happy with that. What’s interesting is that even though they’ve gone through some very difficult technical challenges, the future of that program. I’m not entirely sure how well it will last over time and what kind of investment it will require. It speaks to a broader issue in the industry about what is the role of the traditional prime contractor or the strategic aerospace company that you know, in the context of the LTV, which you just mentioned, you know, in two machines, like a smaller company, is at the top of that team that includes Boeing and Northrop Grumman, Michelin and a BL as a subcontractor. So I think the environment of NASA and the way they do non-traditional procurement to buy goods and services The Artemis program has fundamentally changed the landscape and disrupted strategic aerospace. If you say you’re not sure about the program, don’t pay specific attention to it. But is it about the structure of a company, this reality of today where you need to be a little more agile in order to move aggressively against SpaceX and other newcomers. I think a lot of this has to do with the future of the CIS lunar economy or the Artemis campaign or a series of programs where you need to be able to work in a fixed-price contract environment. You have to be able to stand there and perform with that risk. And the government asks us as commercial companies to share the risk. And sometimes with the larger strategic aerospace companies. Their boards and their shareholders are not comfortable with that risk attitude where a smaller, more nimble and agile company might be able to avoid these financial risks and be successful. And I think the companies that can figure this out, the ones that can make it with these non-traditional procurements, will be the first aviation companies of the future. And I think those are intuitive machines. And you said, in some ways the structure is a bit inverted, right intuitive machines, at least with the LTV, the one that brings the traditional aerospace players into the fold, that’s right, so initially the systems integrator would have a big strategic an aerospace company. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, north of in this case because of the nuances of the purchasing itself. Intuitive machines bring the most value to a system integrator. And, what I was talking to you about earlier is the ability to not just deliver an LTV on a cargo lander design and build an LTV and then use it on the surface. Both commercially and for NASA. That requires communication services and the tuna machines bring all that as a unique company. It has been an eventful few months for you. Launch your lander onto the surface of the moon, the first commercial company to do so. It didn’t tip much good, and so you were able to see the mission through to the end, as I understand you did. While NASA was able to release all their experiments too, what is the lesson we learned from them? In many ways it speaks to the challenges associated with successfully executing a mission on the road. I’ll tell you something. It was a fantastic performance. We are very proud of that achievement, and I declared success because we flew the mission well. We designed and developed a mission to the moon at a certain cost. That cost about $118 million and did it in about four years. We have completely disrupted the industry when it comes to the economics of flying to the moon. That’s a success. look at how we went about the mission, despite all the challenges and trials of traveling to the moon, over 300,000 miles beyond, and we solved every problem along the way. We landed without laser altimeters. We talked about that and still landed softly. Now we were tilting. But we gave NASA back all the data they requested. And we stayed on the surface of the moon for about 164 hours, and our requirement was 144 hours. What we do now is important that people I don’t know that aerospace is difficult. Flying missions in space is difficult. So of course we have a process called a hot wash, where we took 30 days to analyze every aspect of the mission. What went perfectly, what didn’t go so well. What exactly went wrong? Does something need to be fixed? And we came up with some things that say, OK, now we’re going to improve our technology, all the technology to do autonomous engine firing and navigation and around the moon without GPS and to land with precision and avoid hazards. No slopes larger than 10 degrees and no rocks larger than a bowling ball. So if I can do all that in our second mission, we can improve our ability to land 20 degrees times with precision, and the South Pole is going to need that. And that’s what we continually refine for that pinpoint accuracy. So you go from Lunar lander to now a lander for rough missions to the moon. What is the path to profitability for this? And what is the commercial demand as you see it there? Yes, a little difference from the way you said it. We’re moving from a small, science and discovery-based autonomous lander to establishing communications on and around the moon. Data relay satellites, navigation. They call it position navigation and timing for heavier, heavier cargo and the heavier cargo element. The Nova D Class Lander will deliver our lunar terrain vehicle, the first piece of infrastructure for the Artemis mission that will transport astronauts around the world. surface in extreme mobility situations. So as a company, our vision is to bring space systems to the surface with our family of Landers to perform command and control and navigation in and around the moon, making surface operations possible. I believe in two of the machines the only company that has all three pieces, or at least two of the three, with the last chess piece being a near space network contract with NASA to provide commercial communications from the moon around the moon and back to earth. So we look forward to the hearing on that award in late May or early June, and that would give us absolute confidence on all three pieces. We could do these types of missions and provide this infrastructure as a service to NASA, and they can bring up the astronauts and the astronaut systems, and we will provide the power, the data, the communications, the navigation and we’re happy to do that on the full stack there. It was certainly exciting to follow the progress. Steve Al works with intuitive machines. Good to talk to you. I appreciate that. Thank you.

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