NASA's small Capstone spacecraft, which is on its way to Earth's moon to investigate a completely new orbit around the moon, lost contact with Earth at the beginning of its lonely journey. .
NASA's 25 kg Capstone probe, July 4 (July 13), shortly after it successfully separated from Rocket Lab's Photon spacecraft bed and began its long journey to the moon. Kurd stopped communicating with the ground team. NASA spokeswoman Sarah Frazier wrote: "The spacecraft team is now trying to understand the cause of this issue and reestablish contact. The team has good trajectory data from the spacecraft based on the first half-pass and the second pass of the ground station with the deep space network." He added: "If needed, this mission will have enough fuel to delay the maneuver for several days. It has the initial path correction after separation. Additional updates will be provided as soon as possible.
Capstone, which takes its name from the keywords Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Test (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment), it was launched on June 28 (July 7) by an Electron Rocket Lab rocket and spent nearly a week in the Earth's orbit until finally, with the help of the occasional photon engine, it left our planet and went to the Moon.
The mission reached two major milestones yesterday: the Photon spacecraft fired its engine for the final time and accelerated the Capstone from Earth orbit on a path to the Moon. Shortly thereafter, the microwave-sized cube spacecraft successfully separated from the spacecraft and began flying freely. It travels and finally reaches a nearly rectangular halo orbit around Earth's only moon on November 13. The main purpose of this mission is to test the stability of this highly elliptical orbit, which NASA has chosen to house its Gateway space station. The station will be a key part of the Artemis lunar exploration program.
The Capstone will also conduct some navigation and communication tests during its time in lunar orbit. These tests are carried out in continuation of the tests conducted in 2009 by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
However, the Capstone team must first solve the communication problem with the spacecraft in order to advance the mission's goals. The team is led by Colorado-based Advanced Space, which is carrying out the mission under a $20 million contract with NASA in 2019.
Cover photo: A graphic design of NASA's Capstone spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Daniel Rutter