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.

CAPSTONE Update on Communications Issue

Following successful deployment and start of spacecraft commissioning on July 4, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network. The spacecraft team currently is working to understand the cause and re-establish contact. The team has good trajectory data for the spacecraft based on the first full and second partial ground station pass with the Deep Space Network. If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days. Additional updates will be provided as soon as possible.

CAPSTONE Leaves Earth Orbit, Headed to the Moon

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) has left low-Earth orbit and started its solo journey to the Moon.

Following its launch on June 28, CAPSTONE orbited Earth attached to Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage, which maneuvered CAPSTONE into position for its journey to the Moon. Over the past six days, Photon’s engines fired seven times at key moments to raise the orbit’s highest point to around 810,000 miles from Earth before releasing the CAPSTONE CubeSat on its ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon. The spacecraft is now being flown by the teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

A screenshot of a web interface showing the spacecraft currently in contact with NASA's Deep Space Network. Two antenna in Madrid are communicating with 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 navigate the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey that will have CAPSTONE inserting into its near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon on Nov. 13. The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to get to its target orbit around the Moon.

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

CAPSTONE en Route to the Moon After Successful Launch

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission is in space on the first leg of its journey to the Moon. CAPSTONE launched at 5:55 EDT (09:55 UTC) on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand, Tuesday, June 28.  

Over the next six days, the engine of the Lunar Photon – the spacecraft carrying CAPSTONE as a payload – will periodically ignite to accelerate beyond low-Earth orbit and release CAPSTONE on the next phase of its journey to the Moon.  

Read more about the launch and what comes next, here: CAPSTONE Launches to Test New Orbit for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions. 

Live Coverage Begins for CAPSTONE Launch

Live coverage has begun of the launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand, where the launch will take place, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. CAPSTONE serves as a pathfinder for the orbit planned for Gateway – the future lunar space station astronauts will visit during NASA’s Artemis missions.

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket stands ready to carry CAPSTONE to space, with an instantaneous launch opportunity at 5:55 a.m. EDT (09:55 UTC). Follow the launch live on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

CAPSTONE Launch Day Weather Forecast: 75% Favorable

The weather forecast for Tuesday, June 28, is 75% favorable for launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. The instantaneous launch opportunity is at 5:55 a.m. EDT (09:55 UTC) with liftoff from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. 

A graphic featuring the CAPSTONE mission patch, along with text: Launch Weather Update. Weather Conditions: Mainly fine weather expected for T-0. Thick mid-high cloud is expected to reduce as the count progresses. Winds N-NE gusting 4-6 meters per second (m/s), possibly increasing to 12-14 m/s close to T-0. Weather = 75% go for launch.
Click to expand. Credit: Rocket Lab

 

CAPSTONE Launch Targeting June 28

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are targeting June 28 for the launch of the CAPSTONE mission. The instantaneous launch opportunity is at 5:55 a.m. EDT (09:55 UTC). Live coverage will begin at 5 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

CAPSTONE’s trajectory design means that the spacecraft will arrive at its lunar orbit on Nov. 13 regardless of launch date within the current period, which offers launch opportunities every day through July 27.

Learn more about CAPSTONE.

CAPSTONE Launch No Longer Targeting June 27

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are standing down from the June 27 launch attempt for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon to allow Rocket Lab to perform final systems checks.

Teams are evaluating weather and other factors to determine the date of the next launch attempt. The next launch opportunity within the current period is on June 28. CAPSTONE’s trajectory design means that the spacecraft will arrive at its lunar orbit on Nov. 13 regardless of launch date within the current period, which offers launch opportunities every day through July 27.

Learn more about CAPSTONE.