NASA C. APSTONE mission

CAPSTONE leaves Earth’s orbit and heads for the Moon

NASA C. APSTONE mission

CAPSTONE in orbit near the Moon: Once released from Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite bus, CAPSTONE will use its propulsion system to travel for approximately three months before entering orbit around the Moon. Credit: NASA Illustration/Daniel Rutter

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), a small CubeSat, the size of a microwave oven and weighing just 55 pounds (25 kg), left low Earth orbit and began his solo trip to the Moon.

Following its June 28 launch, CAPSTONE orbited Earth attached to Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage, which maneuvered CAPSTONE into position for its journey to the Moon. Photon’s engines fired seven times over the past six days at key times to raise the high point of the orbit to about 810,000 miles (1,300,000 km) from Earth before releasing the CAPSTONE CubeSat on its path lunar transfer ballistics to the Moon. The spacecraft is now piloted by teams from Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Deep Space Network CAPSTONE

CAPSTONE communicates with Earth via NASA’s Deep Space Network en route to the Moon.

Now, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to travel the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey during which CAPSTONE will fit into its Near-Rectilinear Halo (NRHO) orbit around the Moon on the 13th November 2022 The gravity-driven track will significantly reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to reach its target orbit around the Moon.

NRHO is a dramatically elongated obituary, located at a precise balance point in the gravitational forces of Earth and Moon. It provides stability for long term missions like Gateway and requires minimal energy for maintenance. CAPSTONE’s orbit also establishes a location that is an ideal staging area for missions to the Moon and beyond. The orbit will bring CAPSTONE within 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of a lunar pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles (70,000 km) of the other pole at its peak every seven days, requiring less of propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moon. surface than other circular orbits.

In the coming days, you will be able to follow CAPSTONE’s journey live using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System interactive real-time 3D data visualization, virtually driving the CubeSat with a simulated view of our system. solar.

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