NASA’s CAPSTONE Mission
What is NASA’s CAPSTONE campaign, what will it do on the Moon?
NASA is preparing for the launch of its Capstone mission this month. A microwave-sized CubeSat weighing only 25 kg will trace the path of the Moon’s orbit. Once in space and before reaching the Moon’s orbit, Capstone will use its propulsion system for three months and then confirm the procedures for entering and operating the Moon’s orbit.
The first phase of NASA’s Artemis mission is being postponed again and again. But that doesn’t mean it’s stuck. Work is progressing on this from many dimensions. NASA SLS rocket and Orion vehicle will be sent to space for the first time in the first stage out of three different stages. For this support, NASA will test Orion’s orbit path this month, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, CAPSTONE. It will also pave the way for the Gateway mission to orbit the Moon as part of the Artemis mission. Capstone is a small microwave sized cubesat weighing 25 kg. This is the first spacecraft that will test the Moon’s elliptical-shaped orbit. Capstone will reduce hazards by verifying space navigation techniques for future lunar orbit or moon-going vehicles.
Special Moon’s Orbit
The capstone will also be useful in confirming the dynamics of the Moon’s orbit, shaped like a capstone halo. This orbit is called Reclinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). It’s stretched pretty long. Its position is the exact equilibrium point of the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon. This will provide stability for long missions like Gateway and will also require minimum energy.
The orbit of the capstone will also determine another position that will serve as an ideal platform for missions to the Moon and beyond. This orbit will take the capstone to one pole of the Moon up to 1600 kilometers near and the other pole to 70 thousand kilometers away in just one week.
Explores propulsion and power requirements
From this orbit, the propulsion capability of the spacecraft going to or flying from there will be less. After a three-month journey, the capstone will reach the Moon’s orbit and will continue to orbit the Moon for six months and get information about the details of this orbit. It will specifically address the propulsion and power requirements for this orbit.
The South Pole of the Earth and the Moon are both visible
Confirmation of these requirements set by NASA’s model will reduce the uncertainty associated with transportation. The capstone will also demonstrate the reliability of the new spacecraft-to-spacecraft reconciliation of space navigation. An advantage of the NRHO orbit is that it gives an uninterrupted view of the Earth and the South Pole of the Moon is also visible.
Directional Ability Test
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been circling the Moon since 2009 to test new navigation capabilities, which will serve as a reference point for the capstone. The capstone will communicate directly with the LRO and measure how far it is from the LRO and how fast the distance between the two changes to determine the position of the capstone.