NASA satellite tests “lunar GPS”

The CAPSTONE satellite has successfully tested a new space navigation technology. It will find application in future Artemis missions. The device also took its first picture of the Moon.

Tasks of the CAPSTONE satellite

CAPSTONE was launched in June 2022. There are two main tasks assigned to the 25-kilogram spacecraft. The first is to check a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) centered around the L2 Lagrange point of the Earth-Moon system. Its key feature is that at this point the gravitational forces of our planet and its moon mutually balance each other. That is, the spacecraft located on it will practically not waste fuel to maintain its position. That is why NASA and ESA chose the NRHO orbit to host the Gateway lunar orbital station.

CAPSTONE satellite (concept). Source: NASA

CAPSTONE’s second task is to test an autonomous navigation system. It will allow determining its position relative to the LRO probe without the help of ground stations.

Successful check of the “lunar GPS”

According to a message on the NASA website, CAPSTONE successfully coped with both tasks assigned to it. On May 9, mission specialists conducted an experiment by sending a signal from a satellite to the LRO probe. Then LRO relayed it back. Based on the characteristics and delay time of the signal, the CAPSTONE navigation system successfully calculated the distance between the two spacecraft and their mutual speed, which made it possible to determine their mutual position. In the future, this “lunar GPS” technology will be used during the implementation of the Artemis program.

A picture of the moon taken by the CAPSTONE satellite. Source: Advanced Space 2023 

In addition, NASA reported on the successful completion of the main task of the mission. CAPSTONE worked for six months in the NRHO orbit, collecting information of interest to specialists. Thanks to this, the mission management decided to extend it for a year. CAPSTONE will continue to check the orbit and test the navigation system.

And finally, NASA published the first picture of the Moon taken by CAPSTONE. It depicts its north pole. The photo was taken during the May 3 approach.

According to

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