NASA’s CAPSTONE looking ‘happy and healthy’ after communications issue – TechCrunch

NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat is “happy and healthy” after reestablishing communications with Earth, ending a nerve-wracking 24-hour period in which the spacecraft had no contact with ground communications.

Advanced Space, the Colorado-based company that builds, owns and operates CAPSTONE, Terran Orbital, which built the CubeSat platform, and NASA independently confirmed the reconnection Wednesday.

CAPSTONE, or Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, is the first step for NASA’s ambitious Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon by the middle of this decade. The microwave-sized CubeSat is intended to represent an unusual orbit around the moon, dubbed near-straight-line halo orbit (NRHO), that could eventually be used for a lunar space station.

The space station that NASA calls the “Gateway” could open up one huge range of possibilities for space exploration by mankind. Gateway could be used to drop rovers or humans on the moon, act as a supply depot, or even as a way station for longer crewed missions to Mars or beyond. But first, the agency wants to gather more data on NRHO — and that’s where CAPSTONE comes in.

A brief anomaly

The loss of communications occurred just one day after CAPSTONE was dropped from Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon Booster. rocket lab Provided Launch Services and payload delivery services for the mission. CAPSTONE functioned normally for the first 11 hours after its separation from Photon, Advanced Space said in a statement. It successfully deployed its solar arrays and communicated with a Deep Space Network (DSN) ground station in Madrid, Spain. DNS is an international series of massive radio antennas operated by NASA in support of space missions.

It appears that the anomaly occurred during the second ground station pass with DSN when CAPSTONE made partial contact with an antenna in California. As SpaceNews noted, amateur satellite observers first noticed CAPSTONE’s missing downlink, triggering a small wave of panic on Twitter. Due to the lack of communications, the first trajectory correction maneuver — the first in a series of maneuvers to ensure the spacecraft remains on an accurate trajectory to the moon — was delayed.

NASA noted in a July 5 report mission update that CAPSTONE is still on course for lunar ballistic transfer to its target orbit, even with the delay of this initial maneuver. “One of the advantages of the BLT, the designed trajectory, is its resilience to delays like this,” Advanced Space said in a mission update.

It is not clear why the underlying communication problem occurred or what actions were taken to resolve it. “Additional updates will be provided,” NASA said.

NASA’s CAPSTONE looking ‘happy and healthy’ after communications issue – TechCrunch Source link NASA’s CAPSTONE looking ‘happy and healthy’ after communications issue – TechCrunch

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