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  • Writer's pictureayush devak

What is NASA's CAPSTONE mission and its importance for moon study....



The first phase of NASA's Artemis mission is repeatedly being postponed. However, the work is in progress on many other dimensions. NASA SLS rocket and Orion vehicle will be sent to space for the first time in the first stage of the mission out of three different stages.

For this support, NASA will test Orion's orbit path this month, as part of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). It will also pave the way for the Gateway mission to orbit the moon as part of the Artemis program.

How big is this?

CAPSTONE is a small microwave sized CubeSat weighing 25 kg. This is the first spacecraft that will test the moon's elliptical-shaped orbit. CAPSTONE will reduce hazards by verifying space navigation techniques for future lunar orbit or moon-going vehicles.

Special moon's orbit

CAPSTONE will also be useful in confirming the dynamics of the moon's orbit, shaped like a capstone halo. This orbit is called Near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO). It is stretched pretty long. Its position is the exact equilibrium point of the gravitational pull of the Earth and the moon. This will provide stability for long missions like Gateway and will also require minimum energy.

The orbit of the CAPSTONE will also determine another position that will serve as an ideal platform for missions to the moon and beyond. This orbit will take the CAPSTONE to one pole of the moon up to 1600 kilometers near and the other pole to 70,000 kilometers away in just one week.



Explores propulsion and power requirements

From this orbit, the propulsion capability of the spacecraft going to or flying from there will be less. After a three-month journey, the CAPSTONE will reach the moon's orbit and will continue to orbit the moon for six months and get information about the details of this orbit. It will specifically address the propulsion and power requirements for this orbit.

Earth and lunar South Pole both visible

Confirmation of these requirements set by NASA's model will reduce the uncertainty associated with transportation. The CAPSTONE will also demonstrate the reliability of the new spacecraft-to-spacecraft reconciliation of space navigation. The NRHO provides the advantage of an unobstructed view of Earth in addition to coverage of the lunar South Pole.


Directional Ability Test

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been circling the moon since 2009 to test new navigation capabilities, which will serve as a reference point for the CAPSTONE. The CAPSTONE will communicate directly with the LRO and measure how far it is from the LRO and how fast the distance between the two changes to determine the position of the CAPSTONE.

CAPSTONE Autonomous Navigation Software will be assessed with the help of LRO. This software, named Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS), if successful, will help spacecraft to locate their position in the future and their dependence on Earth's monitoring system will end.



(With NASA Inputs)


Credit: DNA

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