Another month, another attempt at the moon, but not on Wednesday.

SpaceX announced Tuesday night the postponement of the planned launch of a private robotic lunar lander.

The spacecraft, built by Intuitive Machines of Houston, sits atop the rocket on the launch pad. Weather conditions were favorable, but a technical problem caused their flight to be delayed by at least a day. The next attempt will be Thursday at 1:05 am Eastern Time.

If all goes well, it will establish the first American spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon’s surface since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972. It will also be the last private effort to send a spacecraft to the Moon.

The Intuitive Machines lander, called Odysseus, was scheduled to launch at 12:57 a.m. ET Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In a post late Tuesday On the X website, SpaceX said the temperature of the methane fuel for the lander was “off nominal.”

If the technical problem is solved, forecasts call for favorable weather during the next launch, on Thursday. There is another backup launch opportunity on Friday.

If the launch occurs this week, the landing will be on February 22 near a crater called Malapert A. (Malapert A is a satellite crater of the larger Malapert crater, named after Charles Malapert, a 17th-century Belgian astronomer ).

Ulysses will enter orbit around the Moon about 24 hours before the landing attempt.

The landing site, about 185 miles from the south pole on the near side of the Moon, is relatively flat, an easier place for a spacecraft to land. No American spacecraft has ever landed at the lunar south pole, which is the focus of many space agencies and companies because it can be rich in frozen water.

Intuitive Machines calls its spacecraft design Nova-C and named this particular lander Odysseus. It is a hexagonal cylinder with six landing legs, about 14 feet high and 5 feet wide. Intuitive Machines notes that the lander’s body is about the size of an old British telephone booth, i.e. like the Tardis in the science fiction TV show “Doctor Who.”

At launch, with a full propellant load, the lander weighs about 4,200 pounds.

NASA is the primary customer for the Intuitive Machines flight; is paying the company $118 million to deliver its payloads. NASA also spent an additional $11 million to develop and build the flight’s six instruments:

  • A set of laser retroreflectors to bounce laser beams fired from Earth.

  • A LIDAR instrument to accurately measure the altitude and speed of the spacecraft as it descends to the lunar surface.

  • A stereo camera to capture video of the dust plume kicked up by the lander’s engines during landing.

  • A low-frequency radio receiver to measure the effects of charged particles near the lunar surface on radio signals.

  • A beacon, Lunar Node-1, to demonstrate an autonomous navigation system.

  • An instrument in the propellant tank that uses radio waves to measure how much fuel is left in the tank.

The lander also carries a few other payloads, including a camera built by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; a precursor instrument for a future lunar telescope; and an art project by Jeff Koons.

On January 8, Astrobotic Technology sent its Peregrine lander toward the moon. But a malfunction of its propulsion system shortly after launch prevented any chance of landing. Ten days later, as Peregrine spun back toward Earth, it burned up in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Both Odysseus and Peregrine are part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS. The goal of the program is to use commercial companies to send experiments to the moon instead of NASA building and operating its own lunar landing modules.

“We’ve always seen these initial CLPS deliveries as a bit of a learning experience,” Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s science mission directorate, said during a press conference Tuesday.

The space agency hopes this approach will be much cheaper, allowing it to send more missions more frequently as it prepares to send astronauts back to the moon as part of its Artemis program.