Intuitive Machines prepares for first lunar mission, faces challenge to NASA contract win

Intuitive Machines is preparing for its first lunar mission to the moon’s south pole in the third quarter of this year, while also facing a protest to a major NASA contract win, executives told investors Thursday.

The company has made “significant progress” on testing for the inaugural IM-1 mission, Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said during a first-quarter earnings call. He added that he expects the lander to be at the launch pad in “mid-to-late Q3.” During that mission, the company will attempt to land its spacecraft, Nova-C, on the lunar surface — and will be the first totally private company to do so. The company is currently assessing the landing spot on the moon for a follow-up mission.

Intuitive Machines went public via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company in February. The company reported first-quarter revenues of $18.2 million, with a cash balance of $46.8 million as of the end of the quarter. Additionally, Intuitive Machines reported a backlog of $156.1 million, of which $107.7 million is anticipated to turn into revenue before the year’s end.

“We have always been and will continue to be a capital efficient company,” CFO Erik Sallee said. “We will allocate capital to the highest risk-adjusted returns in a disciplined manner. As a private Company, we were mostly self funded, so we know how to live within our means.”

The company also disclosed that it was facing a protest to its win of a $719 million NASA contract, though Altemus told investors that protests are a fairly common occurrence within the procurement process.

“We know from the statistics that less than 10% of those protests are actually overturned, so we have high confidence in our value offerings to the government,” Altemus said. “We’re confident that once we get through this 100-day protest period for the [Government Accountability Office] that the award will stand.”

Science Applications International Corporation filed the protest against the award on May 8. The firm did not make a copy of the protest available to view, nor does the Government Accountability Office — the federal office where companies may protest contract awards — post them on its website.

NASA awarded the $719 million, five-year contract to a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and KBR named Space Networks Solution. The contract, Omnibus Multidiscipline Engineering Services (OMES) III, is meant to broadly fund engineering work related to the Joint Polar Satellite System and other NASA projects. NASA announced the winning bidder on April 19.

Provided that GAO adjudicates the protest in Intuitive Machines’ favor, the company said it will begin work on the contract in the fourth quarter. With it, the lunar company’s full-year revenue could come in between $174 million and $268 million.

The company, which is listed under the ticker symbol $LUNR, was trading at $8.25 by close of markets Thursday.