NASA resumes communication with CAPSTONE after sudden disconnection

On the evening of July 6, NASA announced that the team had resumed the lost connection with CAPSTONE. Communication with the spacecraft was briefly lost after separation from the Lunar Photon platform before the start of the sending maneuver to the Moon.

The CAPSTONE mission launched on June 28, 2022. The Photon satellite accelerator from Rocket Lab will deliver the spacecraft to the Moon. Image: NASA

CAPSTONE is the first mission under NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return people to the Noon. As part of Artemis, NASA plans to build a space station in the orbit of our moon. But the orbit that NASA wants to use is unique – it’s a particularly elongated path that has never been used before. CAPSTONE should serve as a researcher of new frontiers. When the spacecraft is launched into this orbit, it will provide NASA with some experience before the agency begins to build its orbital station.

Reason of connection loss

The CAPSTONE device is no bigger than a microwave oven. It was launched from New Zealand on June 28 on a small Electron rocket from Rocket Lab. To give CAPSTONE impulse to the Moon, Rocket Lab used a special accelerator called Photon, which remained attached to the satellite after the first launch and periodically raised the satellite’s orbit. 

Artistic image of CAPSTONE in the orbit of the Moon. Authorship: NASA/Daniel Rutter

CAPSTONE disconnected from Photon on July 4. For the first 11 hours after disconnecting, it seemed to work fine. CAPSTONE deployed its solar panels and began charging the onboard batteries. But, according to NASA, the spacecraft had communication problems when it connected to another antenna on the Deep Space Network. In this case, it was an antenna in Goldstone, California. Advanced Space explained the cause of the problem by an “anomaly” in the communication subsystem. As a result, the adjustment maneuver to the Moon, scheduled for July 5, was postponed while the team tried to resume contact with the spacecraft.

Restoring contact

When CAPSTONE resumed contact, the mission team was able to determine the spacecraft’s position and speed in space. Currently, CAPSTONE is located about 285 thousand kilometers from Earth. Engineers were also able to stabilize the spacecraft and did everything possible to solve the communication problem. When NASA is sure that the spacecraft is fully operational, it will finally be sent to the Moon.

“The CAPSTONE mission team has been working around the clock to support this important mission,” Advanced Space writes in its explanation.

Recall that earlier we wrote about the preparation for the launch of the NASA solar sailboat.

According to NASA

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