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CAPSTONE satellite of NASA experienced another hiccup but is presently operational

(Image Credit Google)
The CAPSTONE satellite, operated by NASA, has been having communication issues while in an experimental orbit around the moon, but it is now functioning normally. The tiny CubeSat was created to test out an experimental, fuel-efficient lunar orbit in order to pave the path for future infrastructure on the moon. CAPSTONE has run into a number of issues while traveling to the moon. Due to a radio system issue, NASA lost touch with the satellite soon after its launch in July 2022, but contact was quickly restored. Colorado space company, NASA try to recover Capstone lunar spacecraft after flight 'anomaly' - Denver Business Journal Photo Credit: The Business Journals A second glitch sent the satellite into safe mode in September 2022. This resulted in the satellite losing attitude control and spinning, which was an issue because it wasn't known if the solar panels atop it would produce enough power. Engineers were able to regulate the satellite's rotation by sending recovery commands to it in October. CAPSTONE managed to reach the moon despite these obstacles, perform an orbit insertion maneuver, and enter its near-rectilinear halo orbit in November 2022. Since then, CAPSTONE has orbited the moon 12.5 times, well exceeding its intended goal of six orbits. This is significant since it shows that this orbit is feasible for upcoming missions like the proposed Gateway lunar space station. The satellite, however, has seen more issues this year, starting with a communications difficulty last month. Thankfully, that problem has been resolved. UPDATE 6: Lunar Transfer Orbit achieved by Rocket Lab for the NASA CAPSTONE smallsat — 1st deep space mission success for the company – SatNews Photo Credit: SatNews According to a NASA statement, "CAPSTONE was unable to receive commands from ground operators beginning Jan. 26." "Throughout the problem, the spacecraft was generally in good condition and maintained its route, delivering telemetry data to Earth. On February 6, CAPSTONE was restarted by an automatic command-loss timer, fixing the problem and enabling two-way contact with the ground. Currently, the team is preparing the satellite for its upcoming task: evaluating a navigation system known as the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System, or CAPS. The goal is to use data from both CAPSTONE and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a moon-orbiting mission, to cross-link the precise location of a satellite in space. A novel data type for delivering data utilizing an onboard device will also be tested.

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