NASA CAPSTONE looks ‘happy and healthy’ after communication issues

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NASA’s CAPSTONE Cubesat is “happy and healthy” after re-establishing communications with Earth, ending a jittery 24-hour period during which the spacecraft was out of contact with ground communications.

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Advanced Space, the Colorado-based company that built, owns, and operates CAPSTONE, Terran Orbital, which built the cubesat platform, and NASA, each independently confirmed the reconnect on Wednesday.

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CAPSTONE, or the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, is the first step in NASA’s ambitious Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon by the middle of this decade. The microwave-oven-sized cubesat is designed to determine an unusual orbit around the moon called a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) that could eventually be used for a lunar space station.

This space station, which NASA calls “Gateway”, can open a huge number of opportunities for human space exploration. The Gateway could be used to take rovers or humans to the Moon, act as a resupply depot, or even as a way station for longer crewed missions to or beyond Mars. But first, the agency wants to collect more data on NRHO – and that’s where CAPSTONE comes in.

Short anomaly

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The loss of communication occurred just a day after the launch of CAPSTONE from Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon launch vehicle. Rocket Lab provided launch services and payload delivery services for the mission. CAPSTONE operated as normal for the first eleven hours after splitting from Photon, Advanced Space said in a statement. It successfully deployed its solar arrays and contacted the Deep Space Network (DSN) ground station in Madrid, Spain. DNS is an international series of massive radio antennas used by NASA to support missions in deep space.

The anomaly appears to have occurred during the second DSN ground station pass when CAPSTONE made partial contact with the California antenna. As SpaceNews noted, amateur satellite observers first noticed the absence of a downlink from CAPSTONE, causing a small flurry of panic on Twitter. Due to a lack of communications, the first trajectory correction maneuver — the first in a series of maneuvers designed to keep the spacecraft on an accurate trajectory to the moon — was delayed.

NASA noted in a July 5 report. mission update that CAPSTONE is still on track to ballistically place the Moon into its target orbit, even with the delay in this first maneuver. “One of the advantages of BLT, the developed trajectory, is its resilience to such delays,” Advanced Space said. in mission update.

It is not clear why the underlying communication issue occurred or what steps were taken to fix it. “Additional updates will be provided,” NASA said.


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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