WESTMINSTER – Advanced Space LLC., a leading space tech solutions company, announced today that CAPSTONE – the spacecraft heading to the Moon for NASA – is healthy after successfully performing its first trajectory correction maneuver. This maneuver is a significant milestone for the mission as it represents the first of many maneuvers the spacecraft will conduct during the mission. The propulsion system is specifically optimized for precise maneuvers such as this. This maneuver is similar in size to the critical Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) Insertion Maneuver which will be conducted at the Moon on November 13th and thus serves as a test from which the team will learn to improve future operations. At time of execution, the spacecraft was approximately 465,000 km from the Earth (~13 times further than the GEO belt and ~81,000 km further than the Moon). The spacecraft had lost communications a couple of days ago, but the operations teams effectively and efficiently worked to resolve the issue and communication was restored approximately 43 hours after it was unexpectedly interrupted. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment or CAPSTONE, began its solo journey to the Moon on July 4th as the first launch supporting Artemis missions. Advanced Space leads the CAPSTONE mission for NASA and is the first commercial and privately-owned spacecraft mission to the Moon. The microwave-sized CubeSat will verify and demonstrate operations within a unique and groundbreaking cislunar orbit that will support NASA’s Moon missions under Artemis. Further, the mission will demonstrate a novel spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology service called the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS) developed and implemented by Advanced Space.
The operations of the spacecraft are being conducted by the teams of Advanced Space and Terran Orbital in conjunction with NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). Advanced Space is presently navigating the spacecraft – a combination of determining what trajectory the spacecraft is on and designing the maneuvers it will take to guide the spacecraft to the Moon.
“We are proud to lead CAPSTONE and the collaboration it represents with NASA and our industry partners,” said Bradley Cheetham, Advanced Space chief executive officer and CAPSTONE principal investigator. “The work of the Advanced Space team is informing Gateway and future technology maturation efforts. Our team leverages these uniquely demonstrated capabilities and lessons learned to quickly and efficiently support other programs and priorities in cislunar space and throughout the solar system,” Cheetham added.
CAPSTONE will be utilizing a highly efficient ballistic lunar transfer (BLT), which harnesses the gravity of the Sun to transfer to the Moon instead of fuel. It will take four months to reach the target orbit at the Moon, a NRHO.
“We have studied BLTs and innovative navigation technologies for over a decade. Now we are watching how these advancements have enabled a small spacecraft to push space exploration forward. It is so exciting to see all of the hard work pay off,” said Dr. Jeffrey Parker, co-founder of Advanced Space, chief technology officer. “We are ready to pave the way for NASA’s Gateway and to open new doors for future space exploration,” added Parker.
CAPSTONE™ is owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA.