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NASA’s Capstone Moon Mission Launches Later This Month

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NASA plans to launch its “CAPSTONE” spacecraft mission into lunar orbit later this month, in preparation for a new lunar space station.

The craft, which is about the size of a microwave oven and weighs just 55 pounds, will launch off New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula sometime between June 13 and 22.

It will test the stability of a halo-shaped orbit around the moon before it is used by Lunar Gateway, NASA’s planned outpost on the moon.

Lunar Gateway will one day serve as a staging area for landing humans on the moon and possibly as a launching point for missions to Mars.

Pictured is an artist’s impression of CAPSTONE orbiting the Moon with Earth in the background. The spacecraft will launch this month, sometime between June 13 and 22

CAPSTONE over the moon North Pole: After arriving on the moon, the spacecraft embarks on a six-month mission to validate a special type of orbit

CAPSTONE over the moon North Pole: After arriving on the moon, the spacecraft embarks on a six-month mission to validate a special type of orbit

CAPSTONE: Key Statistics

Type: CubeSat

Mate: 13 x 13 x 25 inches

Weight: 55 pounds

Track: Near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO)

launch site: Mahia, New Zealand

Launch date: June 13-22, 2022

The launch of CAPSTONE was again delayed this week to “no earlier than June 13,” previously set for June 6.

Previously, the mission was scheduled for May 31, but was postponed for unknown reasons.

Rocket Lab, which will send the satellite into space on its Electron rocket, said on Twitter that extra time was needed “to support Photon’s final launch and readiness checks.”

When it’s finally ready, the tiny satellite will blast off from Rocket Lab’s Māhia Peninsula launch site, in New Zealand’s North Island.

CAPSTONE is an abbreviation for ‘Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment’.

It is unique in that it will travel in an elongated halo-shaped orbit, taking it as close as 1,000 miles and as far as 70,500 miles from the lunar surface.

It will use its propulsion system to travel for about three to four months before entering orbit around the moon. There will be one job every seven days.

While it usually takes a spacecraft a few days to reach the moon, CAPSTONE will take much longer because it travels at a slower speed and has to travel a longer route to set itself up for an unusual oval shape.

The American company Rocket Lab will send the CAPSTONE satellite into space on its Electron rocket (photo)

The American company Rocket Lab will send the CAPSTONE satellite into space on its Electron rocket (photo)

CAPSTONE will fire at Rocket Lab's Electron rocket from the company's launch complex 1 in New Zealand

CAPSTONE will fire at Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the company’s launch complex 1 in New Zealand

Rocket Lab said on Twitter this week that additional time was needed

Rocket Lab said on Twitter this week that additional time was needed “to support final launch and Photon readiness checks”

NASA will miss its target moon landing date ‘several YEARS’, watchdog report says

A report from NASA’s inspector general said the US space agency will miss its target for landing people on the moon by the end of 2024, just days after it pushed its original target date to 2025, citing cost overruns. and lawsuits.

“Given the time needed to develop and fully test the HLS and new spacesuits, we expect NASA to exceed its current timetable for landing humans on the moon by several years by the end of 2024,” the IG wrote in its statement. report

The report also notes that NASA does not properly estimate all costs for the Artemis program and could spend as much as $93 billion between fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2025, taking into account the $25 billion needed for missions after Artemis III.

‘Without recording, accurately reporting and lowering the costs of the future’ [Space Launch System]/Orion missions, the Agency will face significant challenges to maintain its Artemis program in its current configuration,” the report said.

The oddly shaped orbit, officially called a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), has never been attempted in space before.

The orbit of the orbit is at a precise equilibrium point in the gravitational pull of the Earth and Moon, meaning less energy is consumed.

“The stability of this orbit allows CAPSTONE to behave almost as if it were held in place by the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon,” said Elwood Agasid of NASA’s Ames Research Center. The next web

‘It requires little energy to maintain stations or to maneuver in other cislunar orbits’ [those between the earth and the moon]†

CAPSTONE will orbit the moon for at least six months to understand “the characteristics of the orbit,” according to NASA.

The space agency said: “It will validate the power and propulsion requirements to maintain its orbit as predicted by NASA’s models, reducing logistical uncertainties.

“It will also demonstrate the reliability of innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solutions, as well as communication capabilities with Earth.”

First parts for the Lunar Gateway won’t be launched until November 2024 at the earliest, giving NASA plenty of time to review CAPSTONE’s results.

The Lunar Gateway, described as an “essential part of NASA’s Artemis program,” will be a small space station orbiting the moon and acting as a “multipurpose outpost.”

The official word is that NASA’s Artemis program will land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2025, although this could be reversed again, NASA researcher General Paul Martin recently suggested.

Lunar Gateway, pictured here above the moon in an artist's impression, is described as a 'vital part' of NASA's Artemis program

Lunar Gateway, pictured here above the moon in an artist’s impression, is described as a ‘vital part’ of NASA’s Artemis program

NASA’s original date for re-landing humans on the moon was 2024, but the date was postponed last year, largely due to lawsuits from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ firm Blue Origin.

Also this year, NASA will send manikins into space as part of the Artemis I mission in August 2022.

Artemis I will pave the way for manned flights – Artemis II, which will be launched in May 2024 and fly past the moon without landing on it, and Artemis III, which will actually land on the lunar surface.

Artemis III, which will launch “no earlier than 2025,” will be the first to land humans on the moon in more than 50 years, since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

NASA’S MOON GATE: AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE ARTEMIS PROGRAM

NASA is working on a project to build the first lunar space station, codenamed Lunar Gateway, as part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.

The crew-maintained spaceport will orbit the moon and serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,” according to NASA.

The station’s first modules can be delivered as early as 2024.

An international lunar exploration base for humans and robots and a stopover for spacecraft is a key contender to succeed the $100 billion International Space Station (ISS), the world’s largest space project to date.

Pictured: A diagram of the proposed Lunar Gateway space station

Pictured: A diagram of the proposed Lunar Gateway space station

NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions aim to send the first manned mission to the moon since 1972 “no earlier than 2025.”

This was originally set to be in 2024, but charges and lawsuits from Jeff Bezos’ firm Blue Origin forced NASA to postpone it for a year.

Ultimately, NASA aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.

The space agency hopes this colony will discover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advances and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.

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