NASA has lost contact with the Capstone satellite en route to the moon. It is not yet clear how contact with the satellite was broken. The space agency is working on a solution.
So far, Capstone has contacted NASA’s Deep Space Network twice. This happened first with the ground station in Madrid and later only partially with the DSN location in Goldstone in California. During these contact moments, the space agency in their own words collect enough data to approximate Capstone’s tentative location and speed. “If necessary, the space mission will have enough fuel to delay the first correction maneuver for days.”
NASA planned to make an initial correction of the satellite’s flight path on Tuesday, but then lost contact with Capstone. The planned correction should prepare the satellite to more accurately enter its intended orbit around the moon. NASA has several such maneuvers planned. On Monday, the space agency successfully unfolded Capstone’s solar panels, after which the battery was charged on board the satellite.
Capstone is an important first step for the Artemis lunar program. NASA plans to eventually launch a space station into orbit around the moon. That space station, the Lunar Gateway, should again form the basis for future manned moon missions. In preparation, the satellite needs to collect data about the specific elliptical orbit around the moon. For example, NASA wants to use measurements to find out how much fuel is needed to stay in the intended orbit around the moon.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment was launched from New Zealand on June 28 with a Rocket Lab rocket. Since then, the satellite has been on its way to the moon. It is expected to arrive there in November.
Update, 7:14 PM: NASA says that it is back in touch with Capstone. The space agency promises to provide more updates later.
capstone. Source: NASA