NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE probe has again developed its long, circular path to the Moon.
The 55-pound (25-kilogram) CAPSTONE CubeSat performed its second engine burn this morning (July 12). The autonomous maneuver, which occurred around 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT), took just 53 seconds and consumed 35 grams (1.2 ounces) of fuel. NASA.
This was the second thruster fired for CAPSTONE, launched into Earth orbit on a Rocket Lab Electron booster on June 28. The microwave-sized spacecraft spent the following week drifting further away from our planet, thanks to Rocket Lab’s engine burns. Photon satellite bus.
CAPSTONE left Foton on July 4 as scheduled and embarked on its solo journey to the Moon, scheduled to end with a near-linear halo orbit (NRHO) arrival on November 13. The trip would take too long as CAPSTONE was launched over 58 feet (19 meters) Electron, designed to send small satellites into Earth orbit; Therefore, the CubeSat has to take a highly fuel-efficient route to the Moon.
Not everything went smoothly for CAPSTONE. Mission team members lost contact with the CubeSat shortly after its deployment on July 4 but managed to get in touch again about a day later. Mission team members said a malformed command caused the communication interruption, and the CAPSTONE was briefly baffled due to a bug in the CubeSat’s flight software.
But the little moon probe seems to be doing well now. It had its first engine burn on July 7 and ignited the propulsion system for 11 minutes to change its speed to 45 mph (72 kph) as planned.
CAPSTONE’s primary mission is to verify the stability of the Lunar NRHO, which has never been occupied by any spacecraft before. NASA chose this orbit for the Gateway space station, a vital part of the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration program.
The lunar cube will also conduct navigation and communications tests during its mission to the Moon, which is expected to last at least six months.