NASA’s CAPSTONE Spacecraft Is on Its Way to the Moon

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CAPSTONE
Courtesy of Paul Hudson (Flickr CC0)

Today marks a milestone in CAPSTONE, a recent NASA mission that will dispatch a CubeSat to a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon rectilinear. NASA’s Artemis program Lunar Gateway aimed to sustain a continuous human presence around the Moon when it starts to operate. NASA will use it to assess the relevance of small-scale non-return habitats.

CAPSTONE is a CubeSat from New Zealand launched on June 28 on top of an Electron Rocket Lab. CAPSTONE’s orbit during the six days maneuver was steadily raised until it reached one million kilometers from Earth, approximately three times more than the distance from the Moon to the Earth.

After Photon released its freight, CAPSTONE and Photon reached a speed of 24,500 kilometers per hour (39,500 kilometers per hour). The launch is NASA’s multi-purpose small space outpost orbiting the Moon and serves astronauts to stop before and after arriving at the Moon.

CAPSTONE
Courtesy of gab1230067 (Flicker CC0)

The mission’s task, according to NASA, is on a ballistic lunar convoluted transfer trajectory and will follow gravitational contours in deep space. The spacecraft will cruise with little effort along these contours by a sequence of plotted trajectory correction maneuvers.

At critical issues, the CAPSTONE team based at the Advanced Space’s operations center will manually maneuver the spacecraft to switch course. The Terran Orbital Corporation in Irvine, California’s advanced technology will ensure that the spacecraft is maneuvered while maintaining control. The CAPSTONE approach will perfectly align for NRHO insertion at 3,800 mph speed.

It will be a delicate route and precise propulsive maneuver when entering orbit. According to NASA, NRHO symbolizes an extraordinary gravitational sweet zone for Lunar Gateway.

Without any physics intervention, most of the Moon’s orbit is done by nature. CAPSTONE will be at NRHO for six months, traveling 2,100 miles close to the Moon’s north pole and 47,000 miles away from the south pole.

The Earth’s gravitational pull and the Moon at NRHO create an ideal sweet spot for CAPSTONE.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas

Sources:

GIZMODO: NASA’s CAPSTONE Probe Is Officially en Route to the Moon
New Scientist: Update – NASA’s CAPSTONE spacecraft is on its way to the moon; by Alex Wilkins
Olt News: NASA’s CAPSTONE probe is officially on its way to the Moon

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Paul Hudson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of gab1230067s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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