77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Orion Space Solutions supports CAPSTONE Program for NASA Moon Missions

Orion’s Chip Scale Atomic Clock provides critical positioning and tracking data for the CAPSTONE Moon Mission

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Orion Space Solutions PR) — NASA launched its Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) on June 28, as a part of the Artemis program, to study a specific orbit for the future Gateway lunar station. Led by Advanced Space, this mission is test driving orbital analysis that will enable NASA’s future exploration efforts. Orion Space Solutions (OSS) provides a critical satellite component that will support mission success.

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Terran Orbital Executes CAPSTONE’s Second TCM Burn

The satellite is flying a pathfinding mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program
CAPSTONE in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) – Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s second TCM burn. Much smaller than the first TCM burn, this second TCM burn demonstrates the spacecraft’s ability to perform small and precise maneuvers, a capability that is critical to operations in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). The maneuver further cleaned up launch injection dispersions and any execution dispersions that occurred during the first burn.  

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Mission Team Determines Cause of Communications Issues for NASA’s CAPSTONE

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

NASA Mission Update

After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.  

During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software. 

CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.  

While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.  

The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon. 

Terran Orbital Successfully Completes CAPSTONE’s First TCM Burn

The NASA Artemis program satellite is charting a new path to the Moon

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s first TCM burn (TCM-1). As the first statistical maneuver of the mission, TCM-1 is designed to clean up expected dispersions from the launch vehicle injection – enabling CAPSTONE to continue its pathfinding lunar journey in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

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CAPSTONE Satellite, Designed and Built by Terran Orbital, Successfully Deploys from Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into Lunar Transfer Orbit

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful deployment of the CAPSTONE spacecraft from a Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into a Lunar Transfer Orbit. Terran Orbital designed, built, and integrated Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONE, and is flying a pathfinding mission to the moon in support of NASA’s historic Artemis program. With deployment complete, Terran Orbital will now commence the satellite’s mission operations. CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA.

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Advanced Space Recovers Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (Advanced Space PR) — Over the last 24 hours, the CAPSTONE mission team has worked together to narrow down the likely cause of the communications systems anomaly discussed yesterday. The integrated mission team took time and care to work the problem, gaining information from various data sources, working with ground-based hardware to evaluate behavior in a controlled environment, and working to resolve the problem systematically.  This work has included rapid engineering support and resources from many different mission partners. We are extremely grateful for this team effort and want to express our appreciation to all of those involved.

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Controllers Reestablish Communications with CAPSTONE Spacecraft

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

Advanced Space and NASA have announced that controllers have reestablished communications with the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft, which is currently on its way to the moon.

The spacecraft is looking happy and healthy. Details to follow,” Advanced Space tweeted. No information was released on what caused CAPSTONE to lose contact with Earth.

Advanced Space developed and is operating the spacecraft, which will test the near rectilinear halo orbit that the human-tended lunar Gateway will use as part of the Artemis moon program.

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.

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CAPSTONE Suffers Communications Glitch on Way to Moon

Credit: Advanced Space

The CAPSTONE satellite launched last week to orbit the Moon is having difficulty communicating with controllers on the ground, NASA said in a mission update.

Following successful deployment and start of spacecraft commissioning on July 4, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network. The spacecraft team currently is working to understand the cause and re-establish contact. The team has good trajectory data for the spacecraft based on the first full and second partial ground station pass with the Deep Space Network. If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days. Additional updates will be provided as soon as possible.

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Rocket Lab Moon Mission for NASA a Success as CAPSTONE Heads for the Moon

Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab successfully deploys CAPSTONE satellite to lunar transfer orbit for NASA, charting a new path to the Moon. CAPSTONE is testing a never-before-flown orbit of the Moon and is the first mission of NASA’s Artemis program

LONG BEACH, Calif., July 4, 2022 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today announced it has successfully deployed a pathfinding satellite for NASA, setting it on a course to the Moon.  The deployment marks the successful completion of Rocket Lab’s first deep space mission, paving the way for the Company’s upcoming interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus. 

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Advanced Space Announces CAPSTONE Separation To Start Solo Journey Mission to Moon for NASA

Credit: Advanced Space

WESTMINSTER, Colo., July 4, 2022 (Advanced Space PR) — Advanced Space LLC., a leading commercial space tech company pioneering the pathfinder mission, spacecraft separated from Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage today after its launch on June 28. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft has orbited Earth while raising its position to be thrusted beyond low-Earth orbit on a trajectory to the Moon.

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Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon Completes Sixth Orbit Raise for NASA’s CAPSTONE Mission to The Moon

CAPSTONE (Credit: Terran Orbital)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today confirmed its Photon Lunar spacecraft successfully completed a sixth on-orbit burn of the HyperCurie engine, bringing the CAPSTONE satellite closer to the Moon. Lunar Photon’s apogee – the point at which the spacecraft is farthest from Earth during its orbit – is now 43,297 miles (69,680 km).

This sixth burn was originally scheduled to be two burns, but Rocket Lab’s space systems team determined the HyperCurie engine would be capable of performing a single maneuver to accomplish the same delta-v, so combined the two.

The next and final burn is designed to set CAPSTONE on a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon travelling at 24,500 mph (39,400 km/h) to break free of Earth’s orbit. This final maneuver is currently scheduled to take place as early as July 4th. After separating from Lunar Photon, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey that will have CAPSTONE arriving to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.

ABOUT CAPSTONE:

Designed and built Terran Orbital, and owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) satellite will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This is the same orbit intended for NASA’s Gateway, a multipurpose Moon-orbiting station that will provide essential support for long-term astronaut lunar missions as part of the Artemis program. CAPSTONE was successfully launched to space on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle on June 28.

Rocket Lab Successfully Raises Orbit a Fourth Time For NASA’s CAPSTONE Moon Mission

Illustration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Robert Lab USA, Inc. PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today confirmed its Photon Lunar spacecraft has successfully brought the CAPSTONE satellite for NASA closer to the Moon with the completion of its fourth orbit raising maneuver.

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CAPSTONE Launches to Test New Orbit for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions

An image of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, launching aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Image Credit: Rocket Lab)

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — NASA’s CubeSat designed to test a unique lunar orbit is safely in space and on the first leg of its journey to the Moon. The spacecraft is heading toward an orbit intended in the future for Gateway, a lunar space station built by the agency and its commercial and international partners that will support NASA’s Artemis program, including astronaut missions.

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