Working in aerospace facility engineering and design, I've seen firsthand the intersection of practicality and vision sparking groundbreaking endeavors. This was the case when Intuitive Machines, a private space exploration company delivering payloads for NASA, hired Burns & McDonnell to build a new headquarters, production, assembly and testing facility. Working with Intuitive Machines, we set out to build a modern campus, showcasing innovative solutions and the evolution of space technology. 

The project's genesis came from the recognition that conventional paradigms would prove insufficient for Intuitive Machines' dynamic environment. Fueled by an entrepreneurial ethos and a steadfast dedication to tackling difficult problems, Intuitive Machines wanted a home base to not only handle its current endeavors but also provide room for growth. Our goal was clear: Turn Intuitive Machines' ideas into a real place for navigating the intricate terrain of space technology development.

Central to the project was the realization that traditional facilities could not fully meet Intuitive Machines' ambitions. It became apparent during the initial project kickoff meeting that optimizing testing capabilities would be paramount. The company's engines, integral to missions, would require a testing environment unique to their process and protocols. To facilitate testing on campus, we designed and built the flame range, a state-of-the-art facility for testing Intuitive Machines' advanced cryogenic engines for lunar missions — prioritizing both safety and technological advancement. Its unique structure and extensive testing protocols were critical to accelerate the development of larger lunar landers.

Design Soars to New Heights

The design process was shaped by the collaboration and flexibility of the teams from Intuitive Machines and Burns & McDonnell. We worked closely with Intuitive Machines, frequently discussing requirements to meet the needs of their clients and the testing facility, known as the flame range. With diverse requirements, our focus was on specific needs related to this project. Therefore, the requirements reviewed and addressed were those pertinent to the flame range and our collaborative efforts with Intuitive Machines.

The flame range is a testing facility built to advance the development of Intuitive Machines' sophisticated cryogenic engines, which are used to transport payloads to the moon. Incorporating this testing facility on-site meant the Intuitive Machines team could test engines on the company's campus, rather than having to take additional hours out of the day to test at a remote site.

Flexibility was essential to this project, guiding decisions to facilitate safety, efficiency and innovation — from reimagining the lunar production and operations center layout to integrating blast-proof infrastructure into the testing facility.

Communication, Collaboration and Innovation

While effective communication is a cornerstone of success for most projects, it is absolutely critical when building a facility supporting commercial space travel. Regular meetings and ongoing dialogue among teams from Intuitive Machines and Burns & McDonnell helped align objectives and facilitated rapid decision-making.

Reflecting on this journey, the importance of collaboration, especially for such a complex project, really stands out. Our partnership with Intuitive Machines showcased the power of teamwork and shared purpose in driving innovation. Although we played a smaller role in Intuitive Machines' grand scheme for space exploration, seeing the project's contribution proved immensely rewarding.  

Shaping the Future of Space Exploration

From inception to lunar lander touchdown, the collaboration with Intuitive Machines illuminated the potential of private industry to shape the future of space exploration.

After years of dedication and collective effort, watching the successful landing on the moon marked a moment of triumph not only for Intuitive Machines, but also our entire team. Intuitive Machines' new lunar production and operations center truly signifies a milestone in private space exploration.

You don't get to work on projects like this every day, and our journey with Intuitive Machines has reshaped the future of space exploration. As new trajectories are charted, a new era in space exploration is emerging — one defined by collaboration, innovation and relentless discovery.


Designed to facilitate seamless collaboration and accelerate research and development, Intuitive Machines' Lunar Production and Operations Center offers more than its innovative, ultra-modern facility; it embodies a commitment to pushing the boundaries of space technology.


Brittney Swartz is an experienced commercial architect with 30 years of experience in design coordination and project management. She serves as managing operations director for the aerospace and industrial markets at Burns & McDonnell, overseeing design-build projects with a focus on solving client challenges with innovative solutions.