NASA will launch the CAPSTONE mission on Monday, June 27

NASA will launch the CAPSTONE mission on Monday, June 27
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Rocket Lab's Electron rocket sits atop the launch pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand for a wet dress rehearsal ahead of CAPSTONE's launch.

A tiny satellite is ready to set the stage for something much grander: a full-fledged lunar space station. NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite is scheduled to launch Monday and then travel to a unique lunar orbit on an exploration mission for the artemis programwhich seeks to return humans to the Moon by the end of this decade.

CORNERSTONE is traveling aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which will take off from the private company’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. Rocket Lab made headlines in May by using a helicopter to catch a falling rocket booster. CAPSTONE is scheduled to launch on June 27 at 6 am ET, with live coverage beginning an hour earlier. You can see the action in the agency website either appor you can watch it on the live stream below.

NASA Live: official broadcast of NASA TV

About a week after the CAPSTONE mission, the probe’s voyage will be available through NASA. Eyes in the Solar System Interactive visualization of 3D data in real time.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission will send a microwave-sized satellite into a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. The satellite will be the first to make its way around this unique lunar orbit, testing it for the planned time. Moon Gatea small space station that is intended to enable a sustained human presence on the Moon.

NRHO is special because it is where the gravitational pull of the Moon and Earth interact; this orbit will theoretically keep the spacecraft in a “gravitational sweet spot” in a nearly stable orbit around the Moon, according to to NASA. Therefore, NRHO is ideal because it will require less fuel than conventional orbits and will allow the proposed lunar space station to maintain a constant line of communication with Earth. But before NASA builds its Gateway in this highly elliptical orbit, the space agency will use CAPSTONE, owned and operated by Colorado-based Advanced Space, to test its orbital models.

Artist’s conception of CAPSTONE.
gif: NASA/Daniel Rutter

Six days after launch from Earth, the upper stage of the Electron rocket will release the CAPSTONE satellite on its journey to the Moon. The 55-pound (25-kilogram) cubesat will make the rest of its four-month journey solo. Once on the Moon, CAPSTONE will test the orbital dynamics of its orbit for about six months. The satellite will also be used to test spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology and one-way capabilities that could eventually reduce the need for future spacecraft to communicate with mission controllers on Earth and wait for signals to be transmitted. from other spacecraft.

NASA is methodically putting together the pieces for the agency’s planned return to the Moon. the fourth and most recent wet dress rehearsal of the space agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) went wellpaving the way for a possible release in late August.

Plus: This tiny moon-bound satellite could pave the way for a lunar space station

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