Critical Point in Deep Space Route to Moon of Capstone Spacecraft

By Aazam

On November 13, CAPSTONE will reach the Moon and become the first spacecraft to enter a unique, long orbit that will support NASA's Artemis missions.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment is a microwave oven-sized satellite.

Which weighs just 55 pounds, will be the first CubeSat to fly and operate on the Moon.

It serves as a pathfinder for Gateway, a moon-orbiting space station that is part of NASA's Artemis program.

The gravitational pull from Earth and the Moon interacts in this unique orbit.

To allow for a quasi-stable orbit– formally known as a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO).

There, physics does most of the work of keeping spacecraft in orbit on the Moon.

This reduces the need for spacecraft to use fuel to maintain the NRHO compared to other similar orbits.

Engineers hope this will allow them to park large spacecraft, including the Gateway, in lunar orbit for at least 15 years.

NASA already has big plans for this particular kind of orbit. Fuel efficiency is critical for such long-duration missions.

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