The microwave-sized spacecraft will test new orbits between Earth and the Moon

The orbit, called the near-straight halo orbit, is very extended and provides stability for long-range missions when little energy is required for maintenance – which would require a gateway. The orbit is at a point of equilibrium between the gravitational pull of the moon and the earth.

The mission, popularly known as Capstone, is scheduled to depart from the launch pad at 8 a.m. ET on Monday, June 26, at Sisluna’s Autonomous GPS Technology Operations and Navigation Experience. Cubsat will travel from Rocket Lab’s Electron Rocket to the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

Once Capstone is launched, it will reach its orbit within three months and then spend the next six months in orbit. The spacecraft can provide more information about the strength and thrust requirements of the gate.

Cubesat’s orbit will bring the spacecraft into its nearest corridor within 1,000 miles (1,609.3 km) of one lunar pole and 43,500 miles (70,006.5 km) of the other pole every seven days. Using this orbit will be more energy efficient to enter and exit the gate of the spacecraft because it requires less force than a more circular orbit.

The mini-spacecraft will also be used to test Earth’s communications ability from this orbit, providing a clear view of the Earth while providing coverage of the Moon’s South Pole – where the first Artemis astronaut is expected to land in 2025.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has orbited the moon for 13 years, will provide a reference point for CAPSTONE. The two spacecraft will communicate directly with each other, allowing Earth teams to measure the exact distance between each and home at the Capstone location.

Collaboration between the two spacecraft could test CAPSTONE’s autonomous navigation software, called CAPS, or Cisluna’s Autonomous Positioning System. If this software works as expected, it can be used by future spacecraft without relying on tracking from Earth.

“The Capstone mission plays a valuable role not only as a gateway, but also for the Orion spacecraft and the human landing system,” said Nuzud Merensi, head of NASA’s Exploration Mission Planning Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Gateway and Orion will use Capstone data to validate our model, which will be important for operations and future mission planning.”

Small satellites for large missions

Christopher Baker, small spacecraft technology program manager at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said the Capstone mission is an exhibition to help lay the foundation for a fast, low-cost future small spacecraft.

Small tasks that can be quickly assembled and launched cheaply mean they can seize opportunities that big, more expensive tasks cannot.

“Often in flight testing you learn from failure rather than from success, if not more. Knowing the potential for failure, we can take more risks, but we can accept that failure in order to move towards better performance.” In this case, failure is an option. A

Lessons learned from smaller Cubsat missions could benefit larger missions in the future – and Cubsat has already begun identifying more difficult destinations from low-Earth orbit.

In 2018, when NASA’s Insight Lander traveled to Mars for about seven months, he was not alone. Two suitcase-sized spacecraft, named Marco, followed Insight in its journey. They are the first cubic satellites to fly in deep space.

During Insight’s entry, landing and landing, Marco satellites were taken and transported from the search to inform NASA that Insight was safe on the surface of the Red Planet. They were named EVE and WALL-E for the robots in the 2008 film Pixar.

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The fact that small satellites have landed on Mars and flew behind Insight in space has excited engineers. Cube satellites continue to fly past Mars after Insight landings, but become silent by the end of the year. But Marco was a great test of how cubsats can perform large missions.

These small but powerful spacecraft will play a supportive role again in September, when the DART mission or double asteroid redirection test, intentionally collides with the demurfus when it orbits the near-death asteroid. Earth Didymos to change the movement of asteroids in space.

The collision will be recorded by LICIACube or Italian Light Cube for asteroid imaging, a cubic satellite provided by the Italian Space Agency. Cubsat travels in the form of a briefcase at DART, which was launched in November 2021 and will be released before the effect so that it can record what is happening. Three minutes after the effect, Cubsat will be powered by Dimorphos to capture photos and videos. Video of the clash will be broadcast back to Earth.
The Artemis I mission will also carry three cube sets the size of a serial box that prevent travel in deep space. Separately, small satellites will measure hydrogen at the moon’s south pole and map water deposits on the moon, fly to the moon, and study particles and magnetic fields from the sun.

More affordable work

The CAPSTONE mission is based on NASA’s partnerships with commercial companies such as Rocket Lab, Stellar Exploration, Terran Orbital Corporation, and Advanced Space. The Lunar Mission was built using an innovative fixed-value small business research contract – in less than three years and for less than $ 30 million.

Big missions can cost billions of dollars. According to a survey by NASA’s Inspector General’s Office, the Persevering Rover, which is currently exploring Mars, costs $ 2 billion and the Artemis I mission $ 4.1 billion.

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Such agreements could increase the likelihood of small, affordable missions to the moon and other destinations, and create a commercial support structure for future lunar operations, Baker said.

Baker hopes that small spacecraft missions will speed up space exploration and scientific discovery – and that Capstone and other cubesats are just beginning.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect publication date.

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