Fun Finds Friday: CAPSTONE Satellite Heads to the Moon!

[dot_recommends] July 8, 2022 Manufacturing Trends

Colorado company Advanced Space's innovative satellite launched from New Zealand

An engineer in a white lab suit holding a tape ruler to a small, microwave-sized, rectangular CAPSTONE satellite. One side has black panels, and others have silver panels and foil. Three team members are seen in the back.
Rebecca Rogers, systems engineer, left, takes dimension measurements of the CAPSTONE spacecraft at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc., in Irvine, California. [Source: NASA.gov]

In this week’s Fun Find, we’re looking at technology innovation by Colorado company Advanced Space, designer of the CAPSTONE satellite. CAPSTONE stands for the “Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment.” That’s a long name that hints at some of the fun things about this new technology.

Wondering what’s exciting about the CAPSTONE satellite mission?

Next step on the path to return people to the moon!

The CAPSTONE satellite, only the size of a microwave oven, represents an important milestone toward NASA’s goal of returning humans to the moon.

Why is this mission so important to the Artemis program’s aim of returning to the moon? Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck spoke to the Associated Press about the excitement surrounding the mission, and the low cost seems to be key.

  • The low cost of the mission—at $32.7 million according to NASA—opens up more opportunities for space exploration.
  • The mission to send the CAPSTONE satellite into orbit around the moon could be repeated to send spacecraft to asteroids, Venus or Mars at a much lower cost than previous missions.
  • Achieving this for tens of millions of dollars is , “an insane capability that’s never existed before” according to Beck.

What will the Capstone satellite do in outer space?

The satellite launched from New Zealand on June 28, and it will take a few months for it to reach the moon. If all goes to plan, a few key things will happen when it reaches the moon:

  • Now that the satellite has broken free from Earth’s orbit and started charging its batteries with a solar array, it will rely on the sun’s gravity and minimal self-propulsion for the rest of the trip.
  • CAPSTONE will establish a new orbit, called a “near-rectilinear halo orbit” that has never before achieved around the moon.
  • In this orbit, the satellite will alternate between passing close to the moon at one end and moving far from it at the other end of the orbit.
  • Once in orbit, the CAPSTONE satellite will capture information and send it to Earth for months.

What’s so great about the new orbit?

NASA wants to use the CAPSTONE satellite to test the new near-rectilinear halo orbit for several reasons:

  • Testing the orbit with the satellite leads the way for the space station Gateway to assume this orbital path someday as part of the new Artemis moon mission.
  • The orbit minimizes fuel use.
  • The path of the orbit allows for constant contact with Earth by the satellite, and eventually the space station.

According to the AP report published in the Colorado Sun, “The plan now is for the 25-kilogram (55-pound) satellite to far overshoot the moon before falling back into the new lunar orbit Nov. 13. The satellite will use tiny amounts of fuel to make a few planned trajectory course corrections along the way.”

While Colorado’s Advanced Space company designed and owns the CAPSTONE satellite technology, manufacturing takes place in California at Terran Orbital. See more about CAPSTONE at the Advanced Space company website.

We congratulate Advanced Space, Terran Orbital, and Rocket Lab on a successful mission launch! It’s an exciting moment as the CAPSTONE satellite heads to the Moon! We’ll be watching for the big moment of orbit stabilization in November.

Have a fun manufacturing innovation story to share?

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–parin

Managing Partner

Managing Partner at StratMg | Website | + posts

With over two decades of experience, Parin leads an expert demand-generation agency, StratMg, that helps industrial manufacturing clients achieve unambiguous and quantified organic sales growth across the US, EMEA & APAC.

Parin has built & positioned StratMg to be a value-added marketing services provider that strives to create a culture of quantified sales-driven marketing initiatives leading to sustained business growth through channel management, diversification, new customer acquisition and retention strategies and tactical execution.

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