Science and Exploration

NASA CAPSTONE Mission Experiences Comms Issue (Updated)

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
July 5, 2022
Filed under ,
NASA CAPSTONE Mission Experiences Comms Issue (Updated)
Model of the NASA CAPSTONE spacecraft.

NASA is reporting that communications issue has arisen between the spacecraft and the Deep Space Network.
In a statement NASA said “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.”

On Monday, July 4th NASA also released an updated on the mission:

“The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) has left low-Earth orbit and started its solo journey to the Moon.”

“Following its launch on June 28, CAPSTONE orbited Earth attached to Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage, which maneuvered CAPSTONE into position for its journey to the Moon. Over the past six days, Photon’s engines fired seven times at key moments to raise the orbit’s highest point to around 810,000 miles from Earth before releasing the CAPSTONE CubeSat on its ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon. The spacecraft is now being flown by the teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.”

“Now, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey that will have CAPSTONE inserting into its near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon on Nov. 13. The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to get to its target orbit around the Moon.”

“In the coming days, you can follow CAPSTONE’s journey live using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System interactive real-time 3D data visualization, riding along virtually with the CubeSat with a simulated view of our solar system.”

NASA Update 8:00 pm EDT July 5, 2022

“NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) experienced communications issues following its deployment on July 4. This is an update on the spacecraft health and efforts to regain contact between CAPSTONE and NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). ”

“Following CAPSTONE’s initial deployment on July 4, the spacecraft successfully deployed solar arrays, was stabilized, and began charging its onboard battery. CAPSTONE’s propulsion system was also readied for the spacecraft’s first maneuver. CAPSTONE made initial contact with the DSN ground station in Madrid, Spain, followed by a partial contact with the Goldstone ground station in California. From these contacts, mission operators have been able to determine CAPSTONE’s approximate position and velocity in space.”

“As a result of the communications issues, CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver – originally scheduled for the morning of July 5 – has been delayed. This maneuver is the first in a series that are designed to make small corrections to increase the accuracy of the transfer orbit to the Moon, and the spacecraft remains on the overall intended ballistic lunar transfer while awaiting this trajectory correction.”

“Teams are working to resolve CAPSTONE’s communications issues.”

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