Ground teams trying to regain control of scouting satellite for NASA’s Artemis moon program – Spaceflight Now


Artist’s idea of the CAPSTONE spacecraft close to the moon. Credit: llustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter

Ground groups will attempt to stabilize the movement of NASA’s small CAPSTONE scouting satellite tv for pc and rescue the $30 million mission on the way in which to the moon, following an issue Sept. 8 that despatched the spacecraft right into a tumble and triggered controllers to briefly lose contact with the probe, officers mentioned Monday.

The CAPSTONE mission is a know-how demonstration and pathfinder to assemble information for future NASA crew missions to the moon. The small satellite tv for pc efficiently departed Earth on June 28 aboard a Rocket Lab launch car, beginning a four-and-a-half month voyage culminating in a deliberate maneuver Nov. 13 to enter a halo orbit across the moon.

Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher and Photon area tug dispatched CAPSTONE on a prolonged however fuel-efficient trajectory to hold the spacecraft into deep area, nicely past the moon. CAPSTONE reached a distance of greater than 950,000 miles (1.53 million kilometers) from Earth on Aug. 26, earlier than gravity began pulling the probe onto a course to cross paths with the moon for the Nov. 13 orbit insertion burn.

More than midway via its transit to the moon, CAPSTONE fired its miniature hydrazine propulsion system Sept. 8 for a course correction maneuver. But NASA mentioned the spacecraft suffered an issue throughout or shortly after the burn, inflicting the spacecraft to tumble. CAPSTONE’s response wheels, fast-spinning gadgets designed to manage craft’s orientation, have been unable to counter the tumble movement.

The spacecraft, in regards to the dimension of a microwave oven, did not contract mission controllers after the course correction burn, giving floor groups a primary signal that the mission was in hassle, in response to Advanced Space, a Colorado-based firm that owns and operates the CAPSTONE mission underneath contract to NASA. In a mission replace Monday, Advanced Space mentioned CAPSTONE is in a “dynamic operational situation.”

Advanced Space’s mission management staff restored communications with CAPSTONE about 24 hours later, and telemetry from the spacecraft confirmed it was tumbling, its on-board pc was periodically resetting, and was utilizing extra energy than it was producing from its photo voltaic panels, NASA mentioned Monday in a press release.

Engineers from Terran Orbital, which constructed the CAPSTONE spacecraft, and Stellar Exploration, the propulsion system provider, are working with Advanced Space and NASA to rescue the mission.

NASA’s worldwide community of deep area monitoring and communications antennas was vital to restoring contact with CAPSTONE. The spacecraft continues to be tumbling, is in protected mode, however seems to be in a secure well being standing and is producing electrical energy, NASA mentioned Monday.

But the tumbling movement means daylight is just partially illuminating the spacecraft’s photo voltaic panels. And with out correct pointing, floor groups are solely receiving weak transmissions via the spacecraft’s low acquire antennas.

“Without the unique capabilities of the Deep Space Network, the mission team would have little or no information on the status of the spacecraft,” Advanced Space mentioned.

The excellent news is the Sept. 8 course correction maneuver was accomplished, or practically full, when the spacecraft suffered the issue. “This means the spacecraft remains on the intended trajectory and on course to its near rectilinear halo orbit at the moon,” NASA mentioned.

“While work is ongoing to diagnose the cause of the issue, the team is preparing CAPSTONE to attempt a detumble operation to regain attitude control of the spacecraft,” NASA mentioned Monday. “This detumble operation was successfully demonstrated after separation from the launch upper stage in July.”

Regaining perspective management would enable the CAPSTONE spacecraft to orient its photo voltaic panels to the solar to completely recharge its batteries after consuming energy throughout the detumble operation, NASA mentioned. CAPSTONE would then level towards the bottom to await directions from mission management.

The restoration effort will start by “working to improve the thermal situation of several subsystems, including the propulsion subsystem,” Advanced Space mentioned.

“These recovery operations will be further evaluated over the coming days,” NASA mentioned. “Recovery timing will be guided by the data and analysis available to maximize the probability of a successful spacecraft operation.”

CAPSTONE stands for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. The 55-pound (25-kilogram) spacecraft is designed to scout a halo-like, elongated orbit across the moon that NASA has chosen for a future mini-space station known as the Gateway. The Gateway station, a part of NASA’s Artemis lunar program, will function an experiment platform and a stopover for astronauts touring between Earth and the floor of the moon.

No different spacecraft has flown within the distinctive path across the moon, known as a close to rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO. The halo orbit will take CAPSTONE — and ultimately the Gateway station — as shut as 1,000 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the moon’s North Pole and so far as 43,500 miles (70,000 kilometers) from the South Pole. Each orbit of the moon will final about six-and-a-half days, in response to NASA.

Space company officers mentioned earlier than CAPSTONE’s launch in June that the pathfinder mission will acquire essential information, however doesn’t have to achieve success to permit NASA to maneuver ahead with the Gateway program.

Like the Apollo astronauts of the previous, future Artemis crew missions to the moon will journey to the halo orbit faster than CAPSTONE, protecting the quarter-million-mile distance in as few as 5 days.

Email the writer.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Leave a Comment