TITUSVILLE, Fla. — SpaceX postponed the launch of an Intuitive Machines lunar lander by a day after encountering a problem fueling the spacecraft on the launch pad.

SpaceX announced about 90 minutes before the scheduled 12:57 a.m. Eastern Feb. 14 launch of the IM-1 mission that it was delaying the launch by a day. The launch has been rescheduled for 1:05 a.m. Eastern Feb. 15.

“Standing down from tonight’s attempt due to off-nominal methane temperatures prior to stepping into methane load,” the company said in its announcement of the delay, but provided no additional details.

A unique aspect of the mission is that the Nova-C lander is loaded with liquid oxygen and methane propellants while on the launch pad. That fueling is intended to start a few hours before launch. SpaceX modified both the launch pad and the rocket to enable the lander to be fueled while inside the payload fairing at the pad.

That requires more coordination between the payload and the launch vehicle during the countdown than for a typical launch, said Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, during a Feb. 13 briefing. “It’s a little more intense for us and a little bit longer timeline than we typically have,” he said.

SpaceX and Intuitive Machines conducted two wet dress rehearsals of the fueling process last week. Trent Martin, vice president of space systems at Intuitive Machines, said in a Feb. 12 interview that the company tweaked some of the parameters of the fueling process after each test but that both had gone well. “On both days we did the wet dress, we would have been go for launch,” he said.

Lunar landers have traditionally used storable propellants and are fueled well in advance of being installed on the rocket. The use of cryogenic propellants by the Nova-C lander requires it to be fueled as close to launch as possible to limit loss of propellants from boiling off.

“It allows us the opportunity to have a very large rocket engine,” Martin said at the Feb. 13 briefing. That allows a quick transit to the moon, with a landing scheduled for about a week after liftoff. “It allows us to operate very quickly.”

He said using those propellants opens the door for future capabilities, including the potential for getting liquid oxygen from lunar resources. That creates “the potential for a reusable rocket using in-situ resources.”

The modifications by SpaceX to support IM-1 will be used by future Intuitive Machines landers, but Gerstenmaier said they could also be used by other customers. “We see this as a way of essentially advancing what kind of services that we can provide to future users.”

Despite the delay, the landing, near the Malapert A crater in the south polar regions of the moon, remains scheduled for Feb. 22. One final launch opportunity is available Feb. 16, after which Intuitive Machines would have to wait until March to try again.

The lander is carry six NASA payloads through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program under an award valued at about $118 million. It is also carrying six non-NASA payloads from customers ranging from artist Jeff Koons to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...