CAPSTONE Team Continues Work Towards Spacecraft Recovery

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.

CAPSTONE Team Makes Progress Toward Recovery Operation

Over the past week, the CAPSTONE spacecraft was able to improve thermal conditions for the propellant and other critical systems while maintaining positive power generation. The operations team has been performing ground and spacecraft testing in preparation for an attempt to stop CAPSTONE’s spin. This operation would return the spacecraft to normal status and will be attempted when preparations and testing are complete.

Updates will be provided as available.

Teams Work Ongoing Recovery Efforts for CAPSTONE 

The CAPSTONE team continues work on recovery efforts. The primary ongoing focus now is to heat the spacecraft’s propulsion system, which dropped below its operational temperature limit following the initial issue that put the spacecraft into safe mode on Sept. 8. Over the past few days, CAPSTONE’s power – though limited by the orientation of the spacecraft in its spin relative to the Sun – appears to be sufficient for heating of the propulsion system. Once the spacecraft propulsion system temperature has been at 41° F (5° C) for at least 12 hours, the team will further evaluate the system for use in the recovery operation. Communications with the spacecraft have also improved, providing mission teams with more data from the spacecraft. Teams are evaluating the data to determine the cause of the issue and design recovery procedures to avoid similar problems during the attempted recovery operation.    

Read the full update from Advanced Space, which owns CAPSTONE on behalf of NASA. Additional updates will be provided as available. 

CAPSTONE Teams Continue Work to Resolve Spacecraft Issue

Following the Sept. 10 update on CAPSTONE, mission owner and operator Advanced Space has provided an update on the mission. Read the full update from Advanced Space.

During or shortly after a planned trajectory correction maneuver on Sept. 8, CAPSTONE suffered an issue that caused the spacecraft to tumble beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to control and counter. CAPSTONE was attempting to communicate with the ground for approximately 24 hours before any telemetry was recovered. After data was received, mission controllers found that the spacecraft was tumbling, the onboard computer systems were periodically resetting, and the spacecraft was using more power than it was generating from its solar panels.

Using NASA’s Deep Space Network, the combined mission team – including Advanced Space, Terran Orbital, Stellar Exploration, and NASA – re-established contact with CAPSTONE and reconfigured the spacecraft’s systems to stabilize the situation while recovery plans are evaluated. CAPSTONE remains in safe mode and now is power positive, meaning that it is generating more power from the solar panels than the system is using. Navigation data collected after the issue began suggests the Sept. 8 trajectory correction maneuver was completed or nearly complete when the issue occurred. This means the spacecraft remains on the intended trajectory and on course to its near rectilinear halo orbit at the Moon.

While work is ongoing to diagnose the cause of the issue, the team is preparing CAPSTONE to attempt a detumble operation to regain attitude control of the spacecraft.  This detumble operation was successfully demonstrated after separation from the launch upper stage in July. A successful detumble would give CAPSTONE control over its orientation, allowing it to orient the solar panels to the Sun to fully charge the batteries of the power used during the detumble. The spacecraft would then orient to the ground and await further instructions. These recovery operations will be further evaluated over the coming days. Recovery timing will be guided by the data and analysis available to maximize the probability of a successful spacecraft operation.

Updates will be provided as available.

CAPSTONE Spacecraft in Safe Mode, Teams Working to Resolve Issue

The CAPSTONE spacecraft executed a planned trajectory correction maneuver on Thursday evening, Sept. 8, and CAPSTONE mission controllers have since obtained telemetry confirming that an issue put the spacecraft in safe mode near the end of the maneuver. The CAPSTONE mission team has good knowledge of the state and status of the spacecraft. The mission operations team is in contact with the spacecraft and working towards a solution with support from the Deep Space Network. Additional updates will be provided as available.

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.

NASA’s CAPSTONE Executes Third Maneuver on Track to the Moon

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) successfully completed its third trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) on Monday. CAPSTONE is taking a long but fuel-efficient route to the Moon, flying about 958,000 miles (1.54 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back around to its near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO).

 At the completion of the maneuver, CAPSTONE was about 780,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) from Earth and was moving at about 595 miles per hour (about 267 meters per second). CAPSTONE will perform several such maneuvers during its journey to lunar orbit to refine its trajectory to the Moon.

CAPSTONE remains on track to arrive to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

Read more about CAPSTONE’s ambitious mission to the Moon.

NASA’s CAPSTONE Executes New Maneuver, Further Pinpoints Path to Moon

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) successfully completed its second trajectory correction maneuver starting at about 11:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

CAPSTONE will perform several such maneuvers during its four-month-long journey to lunar orbit to refine its trajectory to the Moon, with the next one targeted for late July. CAPSTONE is taking a long but fuel-efficient route to the Moon, flying about 958,000 miles (1.54 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back around to its near rectilinear halo orbit.

Read more about CAPSTONE’s ambitious mission to the Moon.

NASA’s CAPSTONE Updates Maneuver Schedule on Journey to Moon

The team for NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is standing down from the trajectory correction maneuver scheduled for July 9 to perform additional analysis on the spacecraft’s performance. The mission team will make a determination whether the maneuver is still needed at this time, and updates will be provided.  

Trajectory correction maneuvers are thruster burns used to clean up expected variation in CAPSTONE’s orbit and more accurately target its path to the Moon. The maneuver scheduled for July 9 was to be part of CAPSTONE’s first series of trajectory corrections. CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver on July 7 achieved about 90% of the objectives for this series of maneuvers.  

CAPSTONE remains healthy and on track to arrive to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13. Read more from Advanced Space, which owns and operates CAPSTONE on behalf of NASA. 

NASA’s CAPSTONE Pulls Off First Targeting Maneuver on Journey to the Moon

NASA’s CAPSTONE successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver, which started at 11:30 a.m. EDT Thursday. This is the first in a series of thruster burns over the next few months to more accurately target CAPSTONE’s transfer orbit to the Moon. The maneuver lasted just over 11 minutes and changed the spacecraft’s velocity by about 45 miles per hour (about 20 meters per second). CAPSTONE’s next trajectory correction maneuver is targeted for Saturday, July 9.  

CAPSTONE is now about 289,000 miles from Earth, beyond the orbit of the Moon. CAPSTONE will loop back around and arrive to its lunar orbit – called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO – Nov. 13. CAPSTONE will fly in the NRHO for at least six months to study the dynamics of the orbit, which is the same one intended for Gateway, a lunar space station for science and human exploration under Artemis.  

Two technology demonstrations on CAPSTONE could allow future spacecraft to navigate near the Moon without as much tracking required from Earth. 

Read more from Advanced Space, which owns and operates CAPSTONE on behalf of NASA.  

Mission Team Determines Cause of Communications Issues for NASA’s CAPSTONE

After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.  

During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software. 

CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.  

While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.  

The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon.