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.