NASA’s Capstone Moon mission is back on track after several failures

An illustration of NASA’s Capstone spacecraft near the Moon (Nasa)

NASA’s small besieged satellite mission to the Moon, Capstone, has overcome its final hurdle to get back on track to the Moon.

According to a NASA update, the microwave-sized spacecraft completed a major course-correcting maneuver on October 27, crucial to setting the spacecraft on track to enter orbit the moon by mid-November.

Capstone spent a month in safe mode, crashing into space, after a malfunction following another course correction maneuver on September 8.

“The team has identified the most likely cause as a valve-related problem in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters,” NASA announced in an update released Monday. “The mission team will plan future maneuvers to bypass the affected valve.”

Capstone will require two more maneuvers to put the spacecraft into an experimental orbit around the Moon.

Capstone stands for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment and is owned and operated by Colorado-based Advance Space on behalf of NASA. His mission is to explore an unusual “almost straight halo orbit”, tracing a long oval with almost flat sides and the Moon not centered, but hidden in one of the corners of the oval.

This unique orbit allows Capstone to fly relatively low above the Moon’s South Pole and high above the Lunar North Pole, the same orbit that NASA plans to use for its Lunar Gateway, a lunar space station to be built as part of the program. Artemis Moon of the space agency. NASA astronauts will use the Gateway as a transit station to travel to and from the lunar surface and the Orion spacecraft which then takes it to the Moon from Earth.

Capstone was launched from New Zealand on June 28 and immediately lost contact with the spacecraft on July 4, shortly after it separated from the rocket’s upper stage that set it en route to the moon.

Ground operators reportedly re-established communications on July 6 after determining they had accidentally sent a command to the spacecraft telling it to turn off the radio. An error in the Capstone software prevented the radio from restarting.

Capstone then proceeded through its long ballistic lunar transfer flight path, which saw the spacecraft fly past the moon’s orbit, reaching a maximum distance of 963.00 miles from Earth, before allowing the Sun’s gravity to pick it up for a date with the moon.

If Capstone remains error-free for the remainder of the mission, he will reach lunar orbit on November 13.

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