Days after being launched from New Zealand, the mission headed to the Moon gave a brief shock to Nasa when it failed to communicate in the darkness of space. But not for long, and communication has been re-established.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (Capstone) mission experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network.
After launch, the spacecraft successfully deployed solar arrays, was stabilized, and began charging its onboard battery and had made initial contact with the DSN ground station in Madrid, Spain, followed by a partial contact with the Goldstone ground station in California.
“From these contacts, mission operators were able to determine Capstone’s approximate position and velocity in space,” Nasa said in a statement.
Also Read | Next stop Moon: Capstone mission escapes Earth’s orbit
The American space agency has said that data received from the spacecraft shows that the spacecraft is in good health and operated safely on its own while it was out of contact with Earth.
Ground-based testing has shown that the issue was triggered during the commissioning activities of the communications system. “The Capstone team is still actively working to fully establish the root cause of the issue.The team will continue to evaluate the data leading up to the communications issue and monitor Capstone’s status,” Nasa added.
The mission’s latest contact reveals that the spacecraft was in the expected location, as predicted based on data from Capstone’s initial contacts on July 4. The team started recovery procedures and began receiving telemetry data from the spacecraft.
The Capstone mission is preparing the spacecraft’s first trajectory correction manoeuvre which will more precisely target Capstone’s transfer orbit to the Moon.
Also Read | Cubesat that will test new route around Moon
The mission will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit and act as a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost part of the Artemis program. will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit and act as a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost part of the Artemis program.
The spacecraft will use a dedicated payload flight computer and radio to perform calculations to determine where the CubeSat is in its orbital path and use the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), hovering above Moon since 2009, as its reference point.
— ENDS —