Explained: What is CAPSTONE, NASA’s new satellite?

What is the News?

NASA has launched CAPSTONE, a microwave oven-sized CubeSat weighing just 55 pounds(25 kg). 


Full Form: Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment(CAPSTONE)

Aim: To help reduce risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative navigation technologies and by verifying the dynamics of the halo-shaped orbit.

Which orbit will CAPSTONE study?
Source: Indian Express

For the Artemis Mission, NASA has decided to include Gateway, a small space station around the moon. That would make it easier for astronauts to reach more parts of the moon. This outpost is to be placed in what is known as a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit(NRHO).

Halo orbits are those influenced by the gravity of two bodies — in this case, the Earth and the moon. The influence of these two bodies helps make the orbit highly stable, minimizing the amount of propellant needed to keep a spacecraft circling the moon.

How will the CAPSTONE spacecraft work?

At the Moon, CAPSTONE will enter NRHO, where it will fly within 1,600 km of the Moon’s North Pole on its near pass and 70,000 km from the South Pole at its farthest. 

The spacecraft will repeat the cycle every six-and-a-half days and maintain this orbit for at least six months to study dynamics.

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What is CAPSTONE, NASA’s new satellite?” published in Indian Express on 30th June 2022

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