Rocket Lab to launch satellite to the moon at the end of this year on behalf of NASA

Space company Rocket Lab will launch a satellite to the moon in the fourth quarter of this year on behalf of NASA. The mission is part of the Artemis program with which NASA wants to land humans on the moon again.

The launch will put the Capstone cubesat, made by Advanced Space, into an elliptical orbit around the moon. Capstone stands for cislunar autonomous positioning system technology operations and navigation experiment and this small satellite will test what propulsion is needed to maintain the desired orbit around the moon.

As part of the Artemis lunar program, the Gateway will later be put into a similar orbit around the moon. That is a space station that serves as a flying base for future moon missions.

Capstone – Photos © NASA/Rocket Lab/Advanced Space/Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems

On behalf of NASA, Rocket Lab launches the Capstone satellite with its Electron rocket stage and Photon “satellite bus.” It is the company’s first launch to the moon. The launch was previously planned for early this year, but that has now been postponed to the fourth quarter of 2021.

Rocket Lab has carried out 21 launches with its Electron rocket so far, carrying 105 satellites to space. The 18-meter-long rocket can bring a maximum of 300 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The rocket stage can be reused by landing it in the sea or picking it up from the sky with a helicopter. The American company is also working on a much larger rocket that can land on its own. That is the Neutron, which can transport up to 2000 kilograms to the moon.