Following Communications Recovery, NASA’s CAPSTONE Prepares for First Maneuver

Following communications issues, mission teams for NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) have re-established contact with the spacecraft through NASA’s Deep Space Network. Data received from CAPSTONE shows that the spacecraft is in good health and operated safely on its own while it was out of contact with Earth. Teams are preparing to carry out CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver – which will more precisely target CAPSTONE’s transfer orbit to the Moon – as early as 11:30 a.m. EDT on July 7. As originally planned, CAPSTONE will arrive to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.  

The CAPSTONE team is still actively working to fully establish the root cause of the issue. Ground-based testing suggests the issue was triggered during commissioning activities of the communications system. The team will continue to evaluate the data leading up to the communications issue and monitor CAPSTONE’s status. 

A data visualization shows the antenna of the Deep Space Network. CAPSTONE is communicating with one of the Goldstone antenna.
CAPSTONE communicates with Earth via NASA’s Deep Space Network.

The mission team, led by Advanced Space, initially re-established contact with CAPSTONE at 9:26 a.m. EDT on July 6. The signal confirmed that CAPSTONE was in the expected location, as predicted based on data from CAPSTONE’s initial contacts on July 4. The team started recovery procedures and began receiving telemetry data from the spacecraft at 10:18 a.m. EDT.