CAPSTONE leaves Earth’s orbit for the Moon

CAPSTONE in lunar orbit: Once launched from Rocket Lab’s satellite photon carrier, CAPSTONE will use the propulsion system to travel for approximately three months before entering lunar orbit. Credit: NASA illustration/Daniel Rutter

lunar autonomous GPS technology operations experience and navigation experience (capstone), a tiny CubeSat, about the size of a microwave oven and weighing just 55 pounds (25 kg), has left low Earth orbit and begun its solo journey to the moon.

next launch it On June 28, CAPSTONE orbited Earth connected to the upper stage of the Photon at Rocket Lab, which maneuvered CAPSTONE into place for its journey to the Moon. Photon engines have fired seven times over the past six days at crucial moments to lift the highest point in orbit to about 810,000 miles (1,300,000 km) from Earth before launching the CAPSTONE CubeSat onto its surface. Ballistic transport on the moon The path to the moon. The spacecraft is now being transported by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Deep Space Network CAPSTONE

CAPSTONE communicates with Earth via NASA deep space network On its way to the moon.

Now, CAPSTONE will use its own thrust and the Sun’s gravity to sail the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month voyage in which CAPSTONE will be introduced into its near-rectival corona (NRHO) orbit around the Moon on November 13, 2022. The gravitational-driven path will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel needed by the CubeSat to reach its target orbit around the Moon.

NRHO is a significantly elongated obituary, located at a delicate equilibrium point in the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon. Provides stability for long-term tasks such as Gate It requires minimal energy to maintain it. CAPSTONE’s orbit also locates a location that is an ideal staging area for missions to the Moon and beyond. It would bring CAPSTONE into orbit within 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of one lunar pole in its near pass and 43,500 miles (70,000 km) of the other pole at its zenith every seven days, requiring less thrust for spacecraft flying to and from the moon. surface of other circular orbitals.

In the coming days, you can follow the CAPSTONE journey live with NASA’s eyes on the solar system Interactive 3D visualization of data in real time, riding virtually with a CubeSat with a simulated view of our solar system.

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