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Capstone, the ship that will go around the Moon

Capstone, the ship that will go around the Moon

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NASA has launched this Tuesday Capstone, the spacecraft that will circle the Moon in a way never seen before, a CubeSat the size of a microwave and less than 25 kilos, which will test a unique elliptical lunar orbit, 1,600 km from one lunar pole in its close passage and 70,000 km from the other pole at its peak every seven days. This significantly elongated orbit will serve as preparation for Gatewaythe future permanent space station that, as part of the program Artemis back to the Moon, it will serve as a ‘portal’ to our natural satellite, facilitating the comings and goings of astronauts and supplies from Earth.

Capstone, trip to the moon

A few months behind the scheduled launch date, Capstone (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) left at 11:55 a.m. aboard a rocket Rocket Lab Electron from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

Six days after launch, the rocket’s upper stage will launch the small probe into space for the first part of its solo flight. After a four-month trip to the Moon, Capstone will test the dynamics of a near straight halo orbit (NRHO) for at least six months, which will help reduce the risk to future spacecraft. This elongated orbit, 1,600 km from one lunar pole at its close pass and 70,000 km from the other pole at its maximum point every seven days, is an advantage over circular ones, since it requires less propulsion capacity for spacecraft flying towards it. and from the surface of the Moon.

New technology

Similarly, the CubeSat will demonstrate innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology and one-way ranging capabilities that could help future spacecraft fly close to the Moon with reduced need for communication with Earth.

What is learned from Capstone, developed by Rocket Lab in New Zealand, will serve as preparation for Gateway, the future station in permanent orbit around the Moon, in whose construction the European Space Agency (ESA) also participates. When ready, it will serve as a ‘portal’ to our satellite, facilitating the collection of astronauts and supplies from Earth.

Gateway is a crucial element of the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon, including the first woman and the first person of color. The ultimate goal is to create a permanent basis on the Moon that serves as a laboratory and testing ground to jump to other worlds, Mars the first.

Font: ABC

Reference article: https://www.abc.es/ciencia/abci-nasa-lanza-capstone-nave-probara-otra-manera-orbitar-luna-202206281209_noticia.html

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