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.
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.
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.
Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian. There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations. Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparation for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.
As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27. Over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt. Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.
The CAPSTONE mission team is continuing to work towards recovery of the spacecraft orientation control. This work includes collecting information from the spacecraft, running simulations, and refining recovery plans. CAPSTONE is power positive – meaning it is generating more power from its solar panels than the spacecraft systems are using – and remains in a stable condition on track to the Moon.
With the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft safety in the Vehicle Assembly Building after rolling back from Launch Pad 39B Monday night, NASA continues to prioritize its employees as Hurricane Ian approaches the Kennedy Space Center area.
As part of NASA’s hurricane preparedness protocol, a “ride out” team will remain in a safe location at Kennedy throughout the storm to monitor centerwide conditions. After the storm passes, they will conduct an assessment of facilities, property, and equipment. Once it is safe for additional employees to return to Kennedy, engineers will extend platforms to establish access to the rocket and spacecraft.
Managers will review options on the extent of work that will be conducted in the VAB before returning to the launch pad or identifying the next opportunity for launch. Technicians will swap out batteries on the rocket’s flight termination system and retest the system prior to the next launch attempt.
At approximately 11:45 a.m. today, a fire alarm was triggered in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The notification came when an arc flash event occurred at a connector on an electrical panel in High Bay 3. A spark landed on a rope marking the boundary of the work area. The rope began to smolder, workers pulled the alarm, and employees evacuated the building safely.
The incident occurred on the third floor of F-tower at the Mobile Launcher power connection. Technicians shut down power to the panel, and the center’s emergency responders declared the VAB safe for employees to return to work. There were no reported injuries, and the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft were not at risk.
The Artemis I vehicle and mobile launcher entered High Bay 3 earlier this morning after rolling back from Launch Complex 39B in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to bring sustained tropical storm force winds to Kennedy as early as Wednesday evening. Engineers and technicians are evaluating the cause.
At approximately 9:15 a.m. EDT, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission were secured inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center after a four-mile journey from Launch Pad 39B that began at 11:21 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian.
After the storm has passed, teams will conduct inspections to determine impacts at the center and establish a forward plan for the next launch attempt, including replacing the core stage flight termination system batteries and retesting the system to ensure it can terminate the flight if necessary for public safety in the event of an emergency during launch.
At 11:21 p.m. ET Monday, NASA’s Artemis I Moon rocket left launch pad 39B atop the crawler-transporter and began its 4-mile trek to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Managers decided to roll back based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian not showing improving expected conditions for the Kennedy area. The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system.
NASA will roll the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Monday, Sept. 26. First motion is targeted for 11 p.m. EDT.
Managers met Monday morning and made the decision based on the latest weather predictions associated with Hurricane Ian, after additional data gathered overnight did not show improving expected conditions for the Kennedy Space Center area. The decision allows time for employees to address the needs of their families and protect the integrated rocket and spacecraft system. The time of first motion also is based on the best predicted conditions for rollback to meet weather criteria for the move.
NASA has continued to rely on the most up to date information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center throughout its evaluations and continues to closely monitor conditions for the Kennedy area.
NASA continues to provide a live stream of the rocket and spacecraft on the launch pad.
NASA continues to closely monitor the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian while conducting final preparations to allow for rolling back the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Managers met Sunday evening to review the latest information on the storm from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force, and the National Hurricane Center and decided to meet again Monday to allow for additional data gathering overnight before making the decision on roll back. NASA continues to prioritize its people while protecting the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft system.