There is a problem with the Capstone Nanosatellite

Communication problems are observed with Capstone, a nano-satellite that paves the way for the Artemis program.

This is a blow to NASA, but also to the Artemis program, which aims to bring astronauts back to the moon in the 2020s. On July 5, the American Space Agency announced that it had lost contact with the Capstone Nanosatellite, on the way to the natural satellite but not all is over yet.

Capstone, “abbreviated to Testing on the operation and operation of Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System technology “, A tiny satellite that was sent into space at the end of June 2022. After a few days in orbit around the Earth, it paves the way for the Moon, an orbital test mission that will be used in the future.

Last July 4, NASA Still gave exciting news On Capstone: It has been reported that the photon top layer of an electron rocket has actually ejected the nanosatellite and is now on its way to its destination – although the moon was about 384,000 kilometers away, the journey will take about four months to complete.

This is Capstone’s destination. But will NASA be able to communicate with the probe again? // Source: Peter Alfred Hess

But the next day disaster struck. To communicate with Capstone, NASA organizes the Deep Space Network, a network of three Earth stations that have been distributed around the world – in the United States, Spain and Australia – to cover as many angles as possible. These connections are the problem, The company says on Twitter.

A first course revision, which was supposed to be held on July 5, could not be made. These combinations are common to space-sent probes: they allow the use of micro-pushes to refine the path to the craft destination. NASA noted that Capstone’s general orientation was good despite the incident.

Prior to this link interruption, NASA received satisfactory news from the Nano Satellite: its solar panels could be fully deployed. The machine starts charging its batteries. Its propulsion system was ready for the first push. NASA also had an idea about its position in space and its movements.

Ground operators have so far failed to restore a connection to the craft – efforts to do so continue. For NASA, there is still no danger: the data was nominal before the links burst, and Capstone has sufficient fuel reserves to delay its first trajectory correction by a few days. Even if it can be more energy-efficient to catch up with a significant flow.

A satellite to evaluate an atypical orbit around the moon

The loss of Capstone, which is absolutely not on the agenda, would be a painful blow for NASA, but not catastrophic. The purpose of the nano-satellite is to scout the orbits of future lunar space stations. Because the trajectory that it will observe would be atypical, with a kind of necklace “suspended on the neck of the moon”.

If this reconnaissance mission to this orbit – almost called the rectilinear hello orbit – fails, it will not stop the U.S. space program. However, this could affect the schedule of the Artemis program, whose first task this year will be to play with the Artemis 1 mission, whose take-off prospects will open in July.

The Artemis mission has launched a massive rocket built by NASA, the Space Launch System (SLS), whose tests have somehow ended this summer. At the top of the launcher, the Orion capsule, which will go around the moon, will then return to Earth. But there will be no one on board for this mission. It will only start serious things with Artemis 2.

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