Rocket Lab reports that the CAPSTONE satellite is on its way to orbit the Moon.
The satellite is intended to pave the way for the Lunar Gateway space station by spending several months in its intended orbit and verifying the orbit’s stability.
The satellite was launched on June 28, 2022. On July 4, Rocket Lab announced that, following six orbit-raising burns, CAPSTONE entered its ballistic lunar transfer trajectory.
“The deployment marks the successful completion of Rocket Lab’s first deep space mission, paving the way for the Company’s upcoming interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus,” Rocket Lab announced in a press release.
A collaboration between NASA, Rocket Lab and several other companies, CAPSTONE was launched onboard Rocket Lab Electron, marking the 24th successful launch for the company out of 27 attempts.
CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) will now spend three months traveling to the Moon, before entering Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), a yet-unused lunar orbit that is supposed to be extremely stable due to the balancing effect of Earth’s gravity.
In addition to verifying the orbit’s suitability for long-duration missions, CAPSTONE will test a navigation system to be used on the upcoming Lunar Gateway station.
Lunar Gateway, which is expected to be launched in 2024, is set to become a staging area for the new Moon landings, serving as a laboratory, storage area and habitation module for astronauts.