Rocket Lab Prepares to Launch CAPSTONE Mission to the Moon for NASA

Rocket Lab will launch a microwave oven-sized CubeSat dubbed CAPSTONE to a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon, blazing a new efficient deep space route that NASA hopes to use for future human spaceflight missions

Electron Launch Vehicle at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 for the NASA CAPSTONE lunar mission. (Image Credit: Business Wire)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab USA, Inc. PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, is preparing to launch a satellite to the Moon for NASA as early as June 27th.

The launch will take place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The launch window opens 09:50 UTC on June 27th (21:50 NZST, June 27th). Back-up opportunities are available through July 27th to accommodate potential weather or technical delays to the launch.

Designed and built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Corporation, and owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. Researchers expect this orbit to be a gravitational sweet spot in space – where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit – allowing physics to do most of the work of keeping a spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. NASA has big plans for this unique type of orbit. The agency hopes to park bigger spacecraft – including the lunar-orbiting space station Gateway – in an NRHO around the Moon, providing astronauts with a base from which to descend to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.

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NASA Sets Live Launch Coverage for CAPSTONE Mission to Moon

CAPSTONE (Credit: Terran Orbital)

NASA Mission Update

NASA will air live launch coverage of the agency’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), the first spacecraft to fly a specific unique lunar orbit ahead of future missions with crew.

CAPSTONE is targeted to launch no earlier than Monday, June 27, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. The instantaneous launch opportunity is at 6 a.m. EDT (10:00 UTC). Live coverage will begin at 5 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

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NASA Passes Go, Moves Toward Late August Artemis I Launch

Artemis I rocket rolls out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has decided that the Space Launch System (SLS) wet dress rehearsal earlier this week that ended prematurely was sufficient for the agency to move forward with having the giant rocket launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to the moon later this summer.

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Intuitive Machines-led Team Awarded $5 Million for Fission Surface Power Solution

A Fission Surface Power (FSP) reactor landed on the Moon by an Intuitive Machines Nova-M spacecraft. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

HOUSTON (Intuitive Machines PR) – The Department of Energy and NASA awarded IX, a joint venture between Intuitive Machines and X-energy, a contract to conduct a one-year study to mature the design of a Fission Surface Power (FSP) solution that will deliver at least 40 kWe power flight system to the Moon by 2028.

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Artemis I Dress Rehearsal Ends at T-29s Mark

Artemis I rocket rolls out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Mission Update

The Artemis I wet dress rehearsal ended today at 7:37 p.m. EDT at T-29 seconds in the countdown. Today’s test marked the first time the team fully loaded all the Space Launch System rocket’s propellant tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown, when many critical activities occur in rapid succession.

During propellant loading operations earlier in the day, launch controllers encountered a hydrogen leak in the quick disconnect that attaches an umbilical from the tail service mast on the mobile launcher to the rocket’s core stage. The team attempted to fix the leak by warming the quick disconnect and then chilling it back down to realign a seal, but their efforts did not fix the issue.

Launch controllers then developed a plan to mask data associated with the leak that would trigger a hold by the ground launch sequencer, or launch computer, in a real launch day scenario, to allow them to get as far into the countdown as possible. The time required to develop the plan required extended hold time during the countdown activities, but they were able to resume with the final 10 minutes of the countdown, called terminal count. During the terminal count, the teams performed several critical operations  that must be accomplished for launch including switching control from the ground launch sequencer to the automated launch sequencer controlled by the rocket’s flight software, and important step that the team wanted to accomplish.

NASA will hold a media teleconference about the test Tuesday, June 21 at 11 a.m., which will stream on the agency’s website. A live feed of the rocket at launch pad continues to be available.

Teams on Track for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal Test

Artemis I rocket rolls out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is on track to begin the approximately two-day wet dress rehearsal for the agency’s Artemis I mission. The test will begin at approximately 5 p.m. EDT June 18 with “call to stations,” when the launch team arrives at their consoles inside the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rehearsal will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch.

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NASA, ESA Finalize Agreements on Climate, Artemis Cooperation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, right, and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher pose for a photograph following the signing of two agreements at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, June 15, 2022. The agreements aim to further advance the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions. (Credits: ESA/S.Corvaja)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher signed two agreements Wednesday at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, further advancing the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions.

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From the Earth to the Moon and on to Mars – ESA and NASA take decisions and plan for the future

Noordwijk, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — The next steps in exploring and using space for the benefit of European citizens were this week on the agenda at ESA’s Council meeting in ESA/ESTEC, the Netherlands on 14 and 15 June. The possibility of the first-ever European astronaut to set foot on the Moon, a telecommunication satellite for lunar exploration and a mission to return precious rock samples from Mars were all discussed.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined the meeting with ESA Member States in a decisive gesture to advocate for Europe’s strong role in multiple projects which reinforce the enduring partnership between the two leading space agencies.

“From understanding our changing planet to exploring Mars, I hugely value the cooperation we have with NASA” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.  “By contributing key European hardware and services to exciting programmes such as Artemis and Mars Sample Return, we are building Europe’s autonomy while also being a reliable partner.”

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Sidus Space is a Teammate on NASA’s $3.5 Billion Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services Contract

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sinus Space, Inc. PR)Sidus Space, Inc. (NASDAQ:SIDU), a Space-as-a-Service company focused on mission critical hardware manufacturing; multi-disciplinary engineering services; satellite design, production, launch planning, mission operations; and in-orbit support is proud to announce that it is part of the Collins Aerospace team which was awarded NASA’s Exploration Extravehicular Activity (xEVAS) services contract.

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FAA Finds No Significant Impact From SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launches From Boca Chica, Order Mitigation Steps

Jets fly by SpaceX’s Super Heavy/Starship launch system. (Credit: Jared Isaacman)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The FAA issued a mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) decision on Monday that will SpaceX to launch its massive Starship/Super Heavy booster combination from its Starbase facility at Boca Chica, Texas. In order to launch, however, SpaceX must take a series of more than 75 actions to mitigate the impact on a sensitive wildlife areas that adjoin the launch base and the endangered and threatened species that live there.

FAA’s decision is a major step forward for SpaceX’s plans for a maiden flight of the booster combination from the Gulf Coast facility located just north of the Mexican border. It might also lead to litigation by a coalition of the environmental groups who believe the launch base is incompatible with the surrounding area.

FAA still needs to issue a launch license to SpaceX. The company plans to conduct a suborbital flight of the boosters that would see Starship crash into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii.

FAA’s decision is also good news for NASA. The space agency awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to develop the Human Landing System (HLS) that will return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century. The company is adapting Starship to be the lander; Super Heavy would launch it into space.

Starship/Super Heavy is the foundation of Elon Musk’s plan to colonize Mars. It is designed to launch 100 to 150 metric tons into Earth orbit.

Rocket Lab Launch of CAPSTONE Mission Delayed

A project funded by NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer program could help improve the efficiency of solar cells for space missions and use on Earth. Here, a team member installs solar panels onto the CAPSTONE spacecraft – short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – before its launch to the Moon. (Image Credit: NASA/Dominic Hart)

NASA Mission Update

NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are no longer targeting June 13 for the launch of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, mission to the Moon. Flight software is being updated. A revised schedule will be provided as soon as possible.

Since arriving in New Zealand, CAPSTONE was successfully fueled and integrated with the Lunar Photon upper stage by teams from Rocket Lab, Terran Orbital, and Stellar Exploration. CAPSTONE and Photon have been encapsulated in the payload fairing.

TechTheMoon Lunar Incubator Launches New Call for Applications

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (CNES PR) — TechTheMoon, the first incubator dedicated exclusively to the lunar economy created in 2021 by the Occitan incubator Nubbo and CNES, is launching a call for applications for its class of 2022. After a first year of existence, which saw the selection of 5 startups developing innovative and concrete technological solutions to support a sustainable human presence on the Moon, the incubator is now opening the doors of its selection to new project leaders. Applications must be submitted by August 26, 2022.

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Rogozin: Russia to Cooperate on ISS Until 2024

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

When he’s not threatening to nuke Bulgaria, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin does attend to his day job of overseeing Russia’s space program. MSN reports:

In comments to Rossiya-24 on Saturday, Rogozin said, as reported by Russian state-owned news agency TASS, that Russia’s involvement with the ISS was fading into the background but the country would still cooperate until 2024, at least.

“The ISS will work exactly as long as the Russian side needs to work on it,” Rogozin said. “There are technical problems. The station has been operating beyond its lifespan for a long time. We have a government decision that we are working until 2024.”

The current operating agreement for the space agencies involved with the ISS ends in 2024, although most of the partner nations have expressed that they are hoping to continue with the project until 2030.

Earlier this year, it was reported by some media outlets that Russia was planning to quit the ISS, blaming Western sanctions, following comments Rogozin made on state television.

Rogozin said: “The decision has been taken already, we’re not obliged to talk about it publicly. I can say this only—in accordance with our obligations, we’ll inform our partners about the end of our work on the ISS with a year’s notice.”

Rogozin left some wiggle room here for extending station operations. Roscosmos is working on building it’s own space station, which is supposed to begin construction in Earth orbit beginning in 2025. However, Russia’s space projects have shown a tendency to slip, sometimes by years.

Russian officials have talked about cooperating with China on its new Tiangong space station. No details have been released aside from visits by Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Russia is also working on an agreement with China to build a crewed base on the moon.

Canadian Space Agency Funds Novel Ideas for Potential Moon Infrastructure

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEIUL, Que. (CSA PR) — As humanity tackles the challenges of creating a permanent human presence on the Moon, multiple Canadian companies will undertake seven concept studies. These reports will help develop capabilities and define potential Canadian infrastructure contributions on the Moon’s surface.

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