The small spacecraft will have to wait a bit for its big launch to the moon.
The CAPSTONE mission, short for “Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment”, will now launch no earlier than June 6, NASA announced late last week. (will open in a new tab).
“We will continuously evaluate the date of the first targeted launch attempt during the launch period, which will last until June 22,” the agency wrote on May 20, without specifying why the launch was delayed.
Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photo)
This is the second recent delay to the mission, which was last scheduled for May 31st. The microwave-oven-sized spacecraft is planned to launch from New Zealand aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket with a Lunar Photon upper stage.
Once it enters space, CAPSTONE will enter a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon, the same orbit that will be used by the future NASA Gateway space station. The orbit is untested, so the cubesat will seek to test its stability.
(Image credit: NASA)
CAPSTONE plans to get within 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of the Moon’s south pole. NASA officials said the Gateway should give astronauts access to surface landings and exploration of potential water ice zones in permanently shadowed craters.
At its farthest point from the Moon, CAPSTONE will soar 43 times higher, to an altitude of 43,500 miles (70,000 km). But the orbit needs to be checked, as the Moon has masses (mass concentrations) that can break its stability.
In addition to orbit testing, CAPSTONE will also evaluate navigation and communication systems between spacecraft with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Moon since 2009. CAPSTONE was originally supposed to launch in 2021, but COVID-related issues have been put on hold. chance.
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