PHOTO OF THE DAY: NASA’s Pathfinder ‘CAPSTONE’ Slated for Launch Into Lunar Orbit

By  //  June 26, 2022

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CAPSTONE is slated to launch Monday, June 27

CAPSTONE, the pathfinder for NASA’s lunar outpost, will test an orbit around the Moon that has never been flown before. (NASA image)

(NASA) – CAPSTONE, the pathfinder for NASA’s lunar outpost, will test an orbit around the Moon that has never been flown before.

In this image from April 2022, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, was undergoing final construction – and with solar panel installation and vibration testing now complete, the small satellite was shipped to its launch location in New Zealand.

CAPSTONE is slated to launch on Monday, June 27, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. Live coverage will begin at 5 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

The destination for this microwave oven-size CubeSat is a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO). That same orbit is planned for Gateway, a multipurpose outpost for long-term lunar missions as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

Six days after launch, the Photon upper stage will release CAPSTONE into space for the first portion of the spacecraft’s solo flight.

After a four-month journey to the Moon, CAPSTONE will test the dynamics of the NRHO for at least six months, helping reduce risk for future spacecraft.

CAPSTONE will also demonstrate innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology and one-way ranging capabilities that could help future spacecraft fly near the Moon with reduced need for communication with Earth.

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