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


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 against a major NASA contract, executives told investors Thursday.

The company has made “significant progress” in testing for the inaugural IM-1 mission, Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, said during a first-quarter earnings call. He added that he expects the lander to be on 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 it will be the first wholly private company to do so. The company is currently assessing the lunar landing site for a follow-up mission.

Intuitive Machines went public in February through a merger with a special acquisition company. The company reported revenue of $18.2 million in the first quarter, with a cash balance of $46.8 million at the end of the quarter. In addition, Intuitive Machines reported a backlog of $156.1 million, of which $107.7 million is expected to be turned into revenue before the end of the year.

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

The company also disclosed that it was facing a protest against the profit of a $719 million NASA contract, though Altemus told investors that protests are quite common within the procurement process.

“We know from the stats that less than 10% of those protests are actually reversed, so we’re very confident in our value offering to the government,” Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, said during a Q1 earnings call. “We are confident that once we pass this 100-day protest period before the (Government Accountability Office) the award will be valid.”

Science Applications International Corporation filed its appeal against the award on May 8. The company has not made a copy of the protest available for viewing, nor does the Government Accountability Office — the federal office where companies can protest contract awards — post them on its website.

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

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

The company, which is listed under the ticker symbol $LUNR, was trading at $8.25 as markets closed on Thursday.

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