CAPSTONE lunar orbiter phones home

Two days after losing contact to the CAPSTONE orbiter on the moon, company flight controllers were in a position to recontact the 55-pound probe.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
06 July 2022 Wednesday 16:22
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CAPSTONE lunar orbiter phones home

Two days after losing contact to the CAPSTONE orbiter on the moon, company flight controllers were in a position to recontact the 55-pound probe. Wednesday's report stated that "the spacecraft was happy and healthy."

It is not known why the microwave-sized CAPSTONE lost contact on Monday after it separated from its upper-stage booster. Engineers have yet to re-establish communication. Advanced Space, the owner and operator, of the $20 million satellite promised that "more details will be forthcoming."

We have reestablished communication with CAPSTONE. The spacecraft looks happy and healthy. More details to come. pic.twitter.com/0qm4mU881M

Terran Orbital For Advanced Space built CAPSTONE. A Rocketlab Electron booster launched CAPSTONE from New Zealand on June 28, 2008. This launch was to confirm details about a lunar orbit NASA had planned for its Artemis moon program.

Rocketlab's Photon's upper stage released CAPSTONE Monday after a series thruster firings that pumped up the spacecraft's velocity. The trajectory took the spacecraft on a four-month journey covering 800,000 miles to reach a point where it will be able to slip into an elliptical orbit around the moon in mid November.

The flight controllers activated the spacecraft and checked it out, and completed one communication session before an issue interrupted the flow of data telemetry. A planned trajectory correction maneuver was delayed as engineers tried to determine what had gone wrong and reestablish communication.

These efforts seem to have paid off Wednesday, although no further details were available immediately.

CAPSTONE will travel to a "near rectilinear halo orbit" (NRHO) around the moon's poles. This orbit will be used for NASA's Gateway space station. It is a small outpost that NASA built to test and serve as a staging base for Artemis moon landing mission missions.

These highly elliptical and gravitationally stable orbits allow spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption, stay in direct line with Earth for continuous communications, and reach many landing targets. CAPSTONE, although not capable of landing on its own, will be the first spacecraft that tests such an orbit.

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