Groundbreaking CAPSTONE Spacecraft Makes its Way to the Moon

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s innovative Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission is in the midst of a four-month long voyage to the moon after launch aboard a Rocket Lab rocket from New Zealand on June 28. There was a presentation earlier this month that provided more information about the mission and its progress at the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

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Terran Orbital Wins Mission Of The Year For CAPSTONE Spacecraft

The satellite is flying a historic pathfinding mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program
CAPSTONE is the Small Satellite Conference’s Mission of the Year (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA Raton, Fla., (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) – Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, is humbled to share in the Mission of the Year Award presented to the CAPSTONE mission team at the Small Satellite Conference. Competition entrants were chosen for their ability to demonstrate a significant improvement in the capability of satellites, spacecraft structural design, scientific instrument development, and communications capabilities. The contest was informed by the public and administered by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Small Spacecraft Technical Committee. CAPSTONE topped ten other highly technical satellites to win the award.

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Orion Space Solutions supports CAPSTONE Program for NASA Moon Missions

Orion’s Chip Scale Atomic Clock provides critical positioning and tracking data for the CAPSTONE Moon Mission

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Orion Space Solutions PR) — NASA launched its Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) on June 28, as a part of the Artemis program, to study a specific orbit for the future Gateway lunar station. Led by Advanced Space, this mission is test driving orbital analysis that will enable NASA’s future exploration efforts. Orion Space Solutions (OSS) provides a critical satellite component that will support mission success.

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Terran Orbital Executes CAPSTONE’s Second TCM Burn

The satellite is flying a pathfinding mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program
CAPSTONE in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) – Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s second TCM burn. Much smaller than the first TCM burn, this second TCM burn demonstrates the spacecraft’s ability to perform small and precise maneuvers, a capability that is critical to operations in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). The maneuver further cleaned up launch injection dispersions and any execution dispersions that occurred during the first burn.  

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Mission Team Determines Cause of Communications Issues for NASA’s CAPSTONE

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

NASA Mission Update

After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.  

During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software. 

CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.  

While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.  

The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon. 

Terran Orbital Successfully Completes CAPSTONE’s First TCM Burn

The NASA Artemis program satellite is charting a new path to the Moon

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s first TCM burn (TCM-1). As the first statistical maneuver of the mission, TCM-1 is designed to clean up expected dispersions from the launch vehicle injection – enabling CAPSTONE to continue its pathfinding lunar journey in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

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CAPSTONE Satellite, Designed and Built by Terran Orbital, Successfully Deploys from Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into Lunar Transfer Orbit

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful deployment of the CAPSTONE spacecraft from a Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into a Lunar Transfer Orbit. Terran Orbital designed, built, and integrated Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONE, and is flying a pathfinding mission to the moon in support of NASA’s historic Artemis program. With deployment complete, Terran Orbital will now commence the satellite’s mission operations. CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA.

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Advanced Space Recovers Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Advanced Space PR) — Over the last 24 hours, the CAPSTONE mission team has worked together to narrow down the likely cause of the communications systems anomaly discussed yesterday. The integrated mission team took time and care to work the problem, gaining information from various data sources, working with ground-based hardware to evaluate behavior in a controlled environment, and working to resolve the problem systematically.  This work has included rapid engineering support and resources from many different mission partners. We are extremely grateful for this team effort and want to express our appreciation to all of those involved.

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Controllers Reestablish Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

Advanced Space and NASA have announced that controllers have reestablished communications with the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft, which is currently on its way to the moon.

The spacecraft is looking happy and healthy. Details to follow,” Advanced Space tweeted. No information was released on what caused CAPSTONE to lose contact with Earth.

Advanced Space developed and is operating the spacecraft, which will test the near rectilinear halo orbit that the human-tended lunar Gateway will use as part of the Artemis moon program.

CAPSTONE Phone Home: Moon-bound Spacecraft Suffers Anomaly in Communication Subsystem

CAPSTONE in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Advanced Space PR) — On July 4, 2022, CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) separated successfully from the launch vehicle and is heading to the Moon on behalf on NASA. The Advanced Space Operations Center and the Mission Operations Center at Terran Orbital are in full swing beginning mission operations, the DSN, and mission partners. We are proud of the hard work the operations team has been doing.

During commissioning activities an anomaly was experienced related to the communication subsystem; the operations team is actively working this issue with the Deep Space Network and determining the best next steps.

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CAPSTONE Suffers Communications Glitch on Way to Moon

Credit: Advanced Space

The CAPSTONE satellite launched last week to orbit the Moon is having difficulty communicating with controllers on the ground, NASA said in a mission update.

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.

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Advanced Space Announces CAPSTONE Separation To Start Solo Journey Mission to Moon for NASA

Credit: Advanced Space

WESTMINSTER, Colo., July 4, 2022 (Advanced Space PR) — Advanced Space LLC., a leading commercial space tech company pioneering the pathfinder mission, spacecraft separated from Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage today after its launch on June 28. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft has orbited Earth while raising its position to be thrusted beyond low-Earth orbit on a trajectory to the Moon.

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Rocket Lab Successfully Raises Orbit a Fourth Time For NASA’s CAPSTONE Moon Mission

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Robert Lab USA, Inc. PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today confirmed its Photon Lunar spacecraft has successfully brought the CAPSTONE satellite for NASA closer to the Moon with the completion of its fourth orbit raising maneuver.

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