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NASA’s Moonbound CAPSTONE probe is stuck in safe mode

NASA's Moonbound CAPSTONE probe is stuck in safe mode
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Artist's rendering of CAPSTONE.

Artist’s rendering of CAPSTONE.
Image: POT

NASA’s CAPSTONE probe has nearly completed its four-month journey to the Moon, where it will test a unique halo orbit in preparation for a future space station. However, at the end of last week, While the probe was performing a course correction maneuver, CAPSTONE entered a safe mode from which it has not yet exited.

CAPSTONE entered safe mode during the night of Thursday, September 8, just as the probe completed a trajectory correction maneuver. The CAPSTONE mission team “has a good understanding of the status and condition of the spacecraft,” NASA said in a painfully brief statement. statement. “The mission operations team is in contact with the spacecraft and working to find a solution with the support of the Deep Space Network. Additional updates will be provided as available.” No further updates have been provided since the statement was published. on September 10.

“The mission operations team is in contact with the vehicle and working to resolve the anomaly,” Advanced Space, the NASA-funded company that owns and operates the probe, said in a statement. statement. “As resolution efforts progress, further updates will be provided. The spacecraft remains on its planned course to the Moon.”

CORNERSTONEo Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, thrown out into space on June 28 aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. The 55-pound (25-pound) cubesat is on a pioneering mission for NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to build a sustained human presence on and around the Moon.

Once on the Moon, NASA-funded CAPSTONE will enter a near-straight halo orbit (NRHO), a fuel-efficient orbit that takes advantage of points of neutral gravity produced by the Earth and the Moon. It is within this gravitationally stable orbit that NASA and its partners plan to build a lunar space station called Gate. CAPSTONE, built and designed by Terran Orbital, will serve as an advanced rover to confirm theoretical models about this unique halo orbit.

The mission got off to a rocky start when a communication problem prevented mission controllers from contacting the probe in early July. The problem was the result of a malformed command, which served to knock out CAPSTONE’s radio. Naturally, a system reboot solved the problem. With communications restored, the team was able to perform the probe’s first correction maneuver.

On August 26, CAPSTONE reached its furthest point from Earth, or apogee, reaching a distance of 951,908 miles (1.53 million kilometers). CAPSTONE is expected to enter NRHO on November 13, 2022. At least that is the plan. Fingers crossed that NASA and Advanced Space resolve this latest problem with the probe, and that this important mission can continue.

Plus: NASA’s Artemis Moon Landing Program: Launches, Timeline and More.

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