A tiny spacecraft will have to last longer for its big lunar launch. The CAPSTONE mission, short for “Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment,” will presently launch no faster than June 6, NASA declared openly delayed last week.
This is the second recent delay for the mission, which was most newly targeted for May 31. The microwave-oven-sized spacecraft is planned to inaugurate from New Zealand aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket with a Lunar Photon upper phase.
Once it gets to space, CAPSTONE will resolve into a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the moon, the exact orbit utilized by NASA’s upcoming Gateway space station. The route is untested, so the CubeSat will intend to verify its stability.
CAPSTONE plans to swing to within 1,000 miles of the lunar south pole at its closest process. With Gateway, that should deliver entry for astronauts to turf on the surface and explore probable zones of water ice within the earth- NASA officials have said.
Aside from assessing the orbit, CAPSTONE will also evaluate spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation and messages systems with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, orbiting the moon since 2009. CAPSTONE was initially supposed to launch in 2021, but COVID-related problems shoved back the opportunity.