Watch NASA Launch Its Capstone Satellite Into Lunar Orbit

NASA has announced that it plans to launch the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) into lunar orbit on June 27.

The space agency says that CAPSTONE will be “the first spacecraft to fly a specific unique lunar orbit ahead of future missions with crew.” It’s scheduled to take off from New Zealand at 6am ET, and NASA plans to stream the launch via its website, mobile apps, and YouTube.

NASA says on its website(Opens in a new window) that “as a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost that is part of NASA’s Artemis program, CAPSTONE will help reduce risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of this halo-shaped orbit.”

The space agency says(Opens in a new window) that “CAPSTONE will also demonstrate innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology and one-way ranging capabilities that could help future spacecraft fly near the Moon with reduced need for communication with Earth.”

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All of that will be accomplished with a satellite that’s said to be about the size of a microwave oven. NASA says it will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, take four months to reach the moon, and then spend at least six months analyzing its near rectilinear halo orbit.

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