NASA Announces Fourth Launch Date for CAPSTONE Moon Mission

The mission was scheduled to take off between May 3 and May 15, Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Operation and Navigation Experience (CAPSTONE), from NASA, suffered several delays. Now, the agency has revealed that the launch will take place next week on Saturday the 25th.

This is the fourth date NASA has released in more than two months. The announcement was tweeted by NASA’s Ames Research Center and reprinted by the official account of Rocket Lab, the electron rocket supplier responsible for sending payloads to the moon.

A statement issued last Wednesday (8) suspended the launch scheduled for Monday (13) due to the need for a software update, but the new take-off date will be from Zeeland on the Mahia Peninsula in Nova Scotia.

According to reports digital appearanceWhile not directly related to NASA’s Artemis program, the mission will ultimately help the agency complete the process of returning humans to the moon, which is expected to take place between 2025 and 2026.

The animation simulates the orbit of NASA’s CubeSat CAPSTONE. Credits: NASA Illustration/Daniel Rutter

The CAPSTONE spacecraft, which is close to the size of a microwave oven, is designed to demonstrate the stability of a near-rectilinear circular orbit (NRHO) around the moon, simulating what future small space station gateways must follow.

The planned orbit positions CAPSTONE within 1,000 miles of the closest strategic location on the Moon, providing access to the South Pole. Given the possible presence of water ice in permanently shadowed polar craters, it is a prime target for the manned Artemis mission.

At its highest altitude, the CubeSat CAPSTONE will be 43 times higher at 70,000 kilometers. The advantage of such an orbit, which has not been tested by other spacecraft, is that future spacecraft entering and leaving the lunar surface at the south pole would not need to fly that high to join the gateway.

Because the moon’s mass concentration could cause interference in its orbit, CAPSTONE will eventually run as a cheaper test before sending the more expensive gateway station.

The mission’s secondary objective is to evaluate spacecraft navigation and communications systems using NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been orbiting the moon since 2009.

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