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CAPSTONE Spacecraft Update: Progress Toward Recovery Operation

CAPSTONE in orbit near the Moon: 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. Credit: Illustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter

On the evening of September 8, the CAPSTONE spacecraft executed a planned trajectory correction maneuver. Near the end of that maneuver an issue occurred that put CAPSTONE into safe mode. Subsequently, navigation data revealed that the spacecraft was tumbling and mission controllers discovered that the onboard computer systems were periodically resetting. Initial recovery efforts focused on improving solar power and heating of the propulsion system to restore temperatures to above the operational limit.

Over the past week, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft was able to improve thermal conditions for the propellant and other critical systems while maintaining positive power generation. In preparation for an attempt to stop CAPSTONE’s spin, the operations team has been performing ground and spacecraft testing. When preparations and testing are finished, this operation—which would restore the spacecraft to normal operation status—will be attempted.

Updates will be provided as they become available.

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