NASA's tiny probe finalizes orbit at the Moon; now in operational phase of mission

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 22-11-2022 19:41 IST | Created: 22-11-2022 19:41 IST
NASA's tiny probe finalizes orbit at the Moon; now in operational phase of mission
Image Credit: Twitter (@NASAAmes)

NASA's tiny Moon probe, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, has finalized its orbit at the Moon and is now in the operational phase of its mission, the agency said on Monday.

CAPSTONE launched June 28, 2022, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Mahia, New Zealand. The spacecraft took a four-month journey from launch to orbit and performed an initial orbit insertion maneuver on Nov. 13.

After analyzing data from the spacecraft, the mission team confirmed that it is in the expected orbit and also carried out two clean-up maneuvers to refine its track. During the operational phase, the CubeSat will test an orbit key to future Artemis missions and demonstrate new technologies for spacecraft operating near the Moon.

"We have been working to this point since we started the company over 11 years ago. Getting into this orbit at the Moon validates so much hard work and grit by the combined CAPSTONE mission operations team," said Bradley Cheetham, principal investigator for CAPSTONE and chief executive officer of Advanced Space. 

For the unversed, NASA's CAPSTONE is the first spacecraft to fly in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) and the first CubeSat to operate at the Moon. This orbit is the same planned for the Lunar Gateway, an upcoming multi-purpose outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide essential support for long-term human return to the lunar surface and also serve as a staging points for deep space exploration.

CAPSTONE will gather data on this orbit for at least six months to support Gateway's operational planning.

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