How can a satellite the size of a microwave oven help shape human missions to the Moon and beyond?
CAPSTONE will fly in a unique, halo-shaped orbit around the Moon before the orbit is used by Gateway, NASA's future lunar outpost for our Artemis program. The CAPSTONE mission, short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, will validate navigation technologies and orbital dynamics for Gateway, which will one day serve as a staging area for missions to the Moon and potentially as a jumping point for missions to Mars.
The CubeSat will come within 1,000 miles of one lunar pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the other pole at its peak every seven days, requiring less propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moons surface than other circular orbits. It's a six-month mission that will help launch a new era of exploration.
CAPSTONE will lift off aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand. The launch window runs from May 31-June 22, 2022.