CAPSTONE Completes Successful Maneuver, Teeing Up Moon Orbit

The CAPSTONE spacecraft successfully completed a trajectory correction maneuver on Thursday, Oct. 27, teeing up the spacecraft’s arrival to lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

CAPSTONE is no longer in safe mode following an issue in early September that caused the spacecraft to spin. The team identified the most likely cause as a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters. The mission team will design future maneuvers to work around the affected valve, including the two remaining trajectory correction maneuvers scheduled before CAPSTONE’s arrival to orbit at the Moon.

CAPSTONE – short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – is owned by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by Terran Orbital. Operations are performed jointly by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Teams On Track for Artemis I Rollout to Launch Pad

Teams are on track to roll the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B no earlier than Friday, Nov. 4 with first motion targeted for 12:01 a.m. EDT.

Minor repairs identified through detailed inspections are mostly completed. Preparations are underway to ready the mobile launcher and VAB for rollout by configuring the mobile launcher arms and umbilicals and continuing to retract the access platforms surrounding SLS and Orion as work is completed.

Testing of the reaction control system on the twin solid rocket booters, as well as the installation of the flight batteries, is complete and those components are ready for flight. Engineers also have replaced the batteries on the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), which was powered up for a series of tests to ensure the stage is functioning properly. Teams successfully completed final confidence checks for the ICPS, launch vehicle stage adapter and the core stage forward skirt.

Teams are continuing to work in the intertank area of the core stage and upper section of the boosters to replace batteries. These areas will remain open to support remaining battery and flight termination system activities. Flight termination system testing will start next week on the intertank and booster and once complete, those elements will be ready for launch. Charging of the secondary payloads in the Orion stage adapter is complete.

Teams recharged, replaced and reinstalled several of the radiation instruments and the crew seat accelerometer inside Orion ahead of the crew module closure for roll. Technicians will refresh the specimens for the space biology payload at the launch pad. The crew module and launch abort system hatches are closed for the roll to the pad, and engineers will perform final closeouts at the pad prior to launch.

Teams will plan to move the crawler transporter into position outside of the VAB ahead of rolling into the facility early next week. The agency continues to target a launch date no earlier than Nov. 14 at 12:07 a.m. EDT.


NASA Sets Date for Next Launch Attempt for Artemis I Moon Mission 

NASA is targeting the next launch attempt of the Artemis I mission for Monday, Nov. 14 with liftoff of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft planned during a 69-minute launch window that opens at 12:07 a.m. EST. Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test to launch SLS and send Orion around the Moon and back to Earth to thoroughly test its system before flights with astronauts. 

Inspections and analyses over the previous week have confirmed minimal work is required to prepare the rocket and spacecraft to roll out to Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the roll-back due to Hurricane Ian.  Teams will perform standard maintenance to repair minor damage to the foam and cork on the thermal protection system and recharge or replace batteries on the rocket, several secondary payloads, and the flight termination system. The agency plans to roll the rocket back to the launch pad as early as Friday, Nov. 4. 

NASA has requested back-up launch opportunities for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 1:04 a.m. and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 1:45 a.m., which are both two-hour launch windows. A launch on Nov. 14 would result in a mission duration of about 25-and-a-half days with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Friday, Dec. 9. 

CAPSTONE Team Stops Spacecraft Spin, Clearing Hurdle to Recovery

CAPSTONE team members successfully executed an operation to stop the spacecraft’s spin on Friday, Oct. 7, clearing a major hurdle in returning the spacecraft to normal operations.

Following a planned trajectory correction maneuver on Sept. 8, CAPSTONE suffered an issue that caused the spacecraft to spin beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to control and counter. Data from the spacecraft suggests the most likely cause was a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters. The partially open valve meant the thruster produced thrust whenever the propulsion system was pressurized. The mission team extensively reviewed telemetry and simulation data and conducted multiple tests on the spacecraft in order to formulate a plan to stop the spacecraft’s spin despite this issue.

Recovery commands were executed Friday morning. Initial telemetry from CAPSTONE and observation data points to a successful maneuver, indicating the spacecraft has stopped its spin and regained full 3-axis attitude control, meaning CAPSTONE’s position is controlled without unplanned rotation. CAPSTONE now has oriented its solar arrays to the Sun and adjusted the pointing of its antennas to provide a better data connection to Earth.

The risks of this anomaly and recovery process were significant, and the team worked extensively and collaboratively to mitigate these risks. Over the coming days, the team will monitor the spacecraft status and make any needed adjustments to procedures in order to account for and mitigate the effects of the partially open thruster valve. The mission team also will work to design possible fixes for this valve-related issue in order to reduce risk for future maneuvers. CAPSTONE remains on track to insert into its targeted near rectilinear halo orbit at the Moon on Nov. 13.

CAPSTONE – short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – is owned by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by Terran Orbital. Operations are performed jointly by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Read the full update from Advanced Space. Additional updates will be provided, as available.

Inspections Underway for Rocket, Spacecraft Before Setting Launch Date

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are in the process of preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the next launch attempt in November for the Artemis I mission. Check-outs conducted this week will allow NASA to finalize the work schedule before rolling SLS and Orion back to Launch Pad 39B.

Since resuming work after Hurricane Ian, teams have extended work platforms around SLS and Orion to assess the exterior and access internal components. Exterior inspections will note any foam or cork from the thermal protection system on the rocket or spacecraft that might need to be repaired. Teams will replace the flight batteries for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the boosters, as well as the batteries for the flight termination system in the boosters and core stage.

Work will also include charging the CubeSats that are equipped to be re-charged and have elected to do so. Inside Orion, work will include replenishing the specimens and batteries for the biology investigations riding within the capsule, as well as recharging the batteries associated with the crew seat accelerometers and space radiation experiments.

While teams inside the Vehicle Assemble Building complete check-outs, managers are coordinating with the U.S. Space Force to reserve launch dates on the Eastern Range and working with other parts of the agency to evaluate any potential constraints before NASA sets a target date for the next launch attempt.

Although the Kennedy area received minimal impacts from Hurricane Ian, many team members who live farther west experienced larger effects from the storm and are still recovering. Managers are working with teams to ensure they have the time and support needed to address the needs of their families and homes.