CAPSTONE Phone Home: Moon-bound Spacecraft Suffers Anomaly in Communication Subsystem

CAPSTONE in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Advanced Space PR) — On July 4, 2022, CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) separated successfully from the launch vehicle and is heading to the Moon on behalf on NASA. The Advanced Space Operations Center and the Mission Operations Center at Terran Orbital are in full swing beginning mission operations, the DSN, and mission partners. We are proud of the hard work the operations team has been doing.

During commissioning activities an anomaly was experienced related to the communication subsystem; the operations team is actively working this issue with the Deep Space Network and determining the best next steps.

  • As a result of this anomaly, the first trajectory correction maneuver – originally scheduled for the morning of July 5th – has been delayed. This maneuver is designed to more accurately target the transfer orbit to the Moon. This maneuver is the first in a series that are designed to make small corrections to increase the accuracy of the transfer orbit to the Moon. The spacecraft remains on the overall intended ballistic lunar transfer (BLT) while this targeting maneuver is delayed. 
  • One of the benefits of the BLT, the designed trajectory, is its robustness to delays such as this. 
  • The mission transfer approach and system margins provide time to resolve and understand this anomaly before proceeding with the first trajectory correction maneuver. 
  • At the time of publication, the CAPSTONE spacecraft is currently approximately 285,000 km from Earth (~8 times GEO) on its planned ballistic transfer orbit to the Moon. 

Spacecraft was commissioning nominally for the first 11 hours. 

  • Spacecraft was deployed successfully from the launch vehicle. 
  • Spacecraft successfully deployed solar arrays, achieved three-axis stabilization, and entered a battery charging mode. 
  • Spacecraft successfully executed Earth-pointing mode, communicated with DSN stations in Madrid Spain and the operations team began check-out and commissioning of the spacecraft. 
  • The operations team was able to determine spacecraft state (position and velocity) and design initial trajectory correction maneuver. 
  • Propulsion system was commissioned and prepared for the first trajectory correction maneuver. 

The CAPSTONE mission team has been working around the clock and through the holiday weekend to support this important mission. With CAPSTONE utilizing the BLT, it will take four months to reach the planned Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. As further details emerge, we will make them available.