Watch the launch of NASA’s CAPSTONE mission to the Moon

After a series of delays, NASA hit the hammer on the mission’s launch date. Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE).

Animation simulates the orbit of NASA’s CubeSat CAPSTONE. Credits: NASA illustration/Daniel Rutter

According to the US space agency, the Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, responsible for sending the cargo to the Moon, will take off on Monday (27), at 7 am (GMT), from The company’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

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The event will be broadcast in real time over the Internet, on the NASA TV website, on the app and on the agency’s YouTube channel, starting at 6 pm.

As reported by Digital Lookalthough not directly linked to NASA’s Artemis Program, the mission will end up helping the agency in the processes that precede the moment of taking human beings back to the Moon, which should happen between 2025 and 2026.

With dimensions close to those of a microwave oven, the CAPSTONE spacecraft aims to verify the stability of a nearly straight circular orbit (NRHO) around the Moon, modeling what the future small space station Gateway will need to follow with astronauts to board.

The planned orbit will position CAPSTONE within 1,600 kilometers of a strategic location on the Moon at its closest point, providing access to the south pole. This is the main target of manned Artemis missions, given the likely presence of water ice in permanently shadowed polar craters.

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At its highest altitude, CubeSat CAPSTONE will oscillate 43 times higher to 70,000 km. The advantage of such an orbit – which has not yet been tested by other spacecraft – is that future spacecraft that enter and leave the lunar surface at the south pole will not need to fly as high to rendezvous with Gateway.

As the Moon has concentrations of mass that can cause disturbances in its orbits, CAPSTONE will end up functioning as a cheaper test, before sending the much more expensive Gateway station.

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About Raju Singh

Raju has an exquisite taste. For him, video games are more than entertainment and he likes to discuss forms and art.

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