Science & Technology

NASA’s CAPSTONE Aces First Targeting Maneuver on Journey to the Moon

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, is a CubeSat that will fly a unique orbit around the Moon intended for NASA’s future Artemis lunar outpost Gateway. Its six-month mission will help launch a new era of deep space exploration. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

After losing communications with CAPSTONE on July 4, the first trajectory correction maneuver, which was originally scheduled for the morning of July 5th, had to be been delayed. Now, after communications were restored on July 6, NASA’s CAPSTONE successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver, which started at 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT) Thursday, July 7.

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This was the first in a series of thruster burns over the next few months to more accurately target CAPSTONE’s transfer orbit to the Moon. The maneuver lasted just over 11 minutes and changed the spacecraft’s velocity by about 45 miles per hour (about 20 meters per second). CAPSTONE’s next trajectory correction maneuver is targeted for Saturday, July 9.

CAPSTONE is now about 289,000 miles (465,000 km) from Earth, beyond the orbit of the Moon. CAPSTONE will loop back around and arrive to its lunar orbit – called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO – November 13. CAPSTONE will fly in the NRHO for at least six months to study the dynamics of the orbit, which is the same one intended for Gateway, a lunar space station for science and human exploration under Artemis.

Two technology demonstrations on CAPSTONE could allow future spacecraft to navigate near the Moon without as much tracking required from Earth.

Trajectory Correction Maneuver 1. Credit: Advanced Space

Advanced Space provided more details on the maneuver:

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