NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat is now “happy and healthy” after reconnecting with Earth, ending a 24-hour period of nerve destruction in which the spacecraft was away from ground communications.
Advanced Space, the Colorado-based company that built, owns and operates CAPSTONE and Terran Orbital, which built the Cubesat platform, NASA independently confirmed the reconnection on Wednesday.
CAPSTONE, or Cislunar Autonomous GPS Technology Operations and Navigation Experience, is the first step for NASA’s ambitious Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon by the middle of this decade. Cubes the size of a microwave oven have been designed to plot an unusual orbit around the Moon, called the Near-Right Halo Orbit (NRHO), which could eventually be used for a lunar space station.
This space station, which NASA refers to as “the Gateway,” could open up a wide range of possibilities for humanity’s exploration of space. The portal could be used to deposit rovers or humans on the lunar surface, serve as a resupply depot or even as a way station for longer crewed missions to Mars or beyond. But first, the agency wants to collect more data on NRHO — and that’s where CAPSTONE comes in.
The loss of contact occurred just one day after CAPSTONE was deployed from Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon booster. Rocket Lab provided launch and payload services for the mission. Advanced Space said in a statement that CAPSTONE was operating as usual for the first 11 hours after its separation from the Photon. It has successfully deployed its solar arrays and communicated with the Deep Space Network (DSN) ground station in Madrid, Spain. DNS is an international series of massive radio antennas operated by NASA in support of deep space missions.
The anomaly appears to have occurred during the second earth station’s passage with the DSN, when CAPSTONE partially contacted an antenna in California. as such SpaceNews لاحظت noticed, amateur satellite observers first noticed the lack of a downlink from CAPSTONE, causing a slight wave of panic on Twitter. Due to a lack of communications, the first trajectory correction maneuver was delayed – the first in a series of maneuvers to ensure the spacecraft remained on an accurate trajectory to the Moon.
NASA indicated on July 5 Mission update That CAPSTONE is still on its way to a lunar ballistic transition to its target orbit, even with this first maneuver being delayed. “One of the advantages of the BLT, the tailored track, is its strength in the face of such delays,” Advanced Space said. In the task update.
It’s not clear why the underlying communications problem occurred, or what actions were taken to correct it. “Additional updates will be provided,” NASA said.