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NASA's new cubesat to pave way for future Moon missions

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Washington, June 28 (Ajit Weekly News) After facing initial setback over system checks, NASA’s CAPSTONE mission — a microwave oven-sized CubeSat — has finally lifted off to the Moon on Tuesday.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) weighing just 55 pounds will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit.

The liftoff took place at 5:55 a.m. EDT (3:25 pm IST) aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand, NASA said in a statement.

“Liftoff! #CAPSTONE launched aboard a @RocketLab Electron rocket to pave the way for future @NASAArtemis missions to the Moon and beyond,” mission officials reported in a tweet.

It was first slated for launch on June 28, but was delayed due to system checks.

“NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are standing down from the June 27 launch attempt for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon to allow Rocket Lab to perform final systems checks,” agency officials said in a statement.

CAPSTONE will fly in cislunar space – the orbital space near and around the Moon. The mission will demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution at the Moon from a near rectilinear halo orbit slated for Artemis’ Gateway.

Once released from Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite bus, CAPSTONE will use its propulsion system to travel for approximately three months before entering into orbit around the Moon.

After arrival at the Moon, CAPSTONE will begin its 6-month-long primary mission. The mission will validate a near rectilinear halo orbit’s characteristics by demonstrating how to enter into and operate in the orbit.

Its mission objectives include demonstrate spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation services that allow future spacecraft to determine their location relative to the Moon without relying exclusively on tracking from Earth; lay a foundation for commercial support of future lunar operations; and gain experience with small dedicated launches of CubeSats beyond low-Earth orbit, to the Moon, and beyond.

–Ajit Weekly News

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