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Advanced Space completes 6-month CAPSTONE primary mission at the Moon for NASA
In addition to testing a fuel-efficient trajectory to reach NRHO, CAPSTONE is helping NASA test future communication and navigation technologies for operating on or in the vicinity of the Moon. The spacecraft will continue to demonstrate critical technologies that will support future missions to the Moon.
Advanced Space completes 6-month CAPSTONE primary mission at the Moon for NASA
by Staff Writers
Los Angeles CA (SPX) May 19, 2023

Advanced Space's pioneering commercial satellite has completed its primary 6-month mission operating in the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) that will be utilized by the Gateway lunar space station. CAPSTONE's enhanced mission will continue to focus on demonstrating lunar operations and navigation technology. To mark the end of the Primary Mission, Advanced Space is providing an update on the mission's accomplishments. While the completion of the Primary Mission is a significant milestone, the CAPSTONE mission is not complete. The mission team, led by Advanced Space, is now planning and preparing to execute the "Enhanced Mission" phase, which will extend the CAPSTONE spacecraft's time in the NRHO up to 12 months.

The CAPSTONE mission has accomplished a tremendous amount since entering the NRHO 6 months ago. CAPSTONE's Primary Mission began after a second correction maneuver inserted the spacecraft into orbit. Since then, the microwave sized CubeSat completed 28 orbits and 7 maneuvers while enduring 6 lunar eclipses with a maximum duration of 74.32 minutes.

The Advanced Space Team has delivered 89 published orbit determination solutions using more than 315,000 measurements from the Deep Space Network including the site at Morehead State University. This was a critical capacity added to DSN to support CAPSTONE which was the first mission to use Morehead for deep space operations.

In addition to testing a fuel-efficient trajectory to reach NRHO, CAPSTONE is helping NASA test future communication and navigation technologies for operating on or in the vicinity of the Moon. The spacecraft will continue to demonstrate critical technologies that will support future missions to the Moon.

CAPS - Testing for the future
CAPSTONE tested navigation technology akin to Earth's global positioning system (GPS). This technology, CAPS, Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System, was developed by Advanced Space. After working with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team for over 2 years, Advanced Space was able to collect crosslink measurements between CAPSTONE and LRO during a recent experimental attempt on May 9th. During this experiment, the CAPSTONE spacecraft sent a navigation signal to LRO which was subsequently sent back to CAPSTONE. From the returned signal, CAPSTONE was able to compute its range and trajectory which can be used to determine the positioning of both the LRO and CAPSTONE spacecraft.

This was a primary objective for the mission which sought to demonstrate its CAPS technology which provides autonomous onboard navigation. Using the gathered data, the team will look to improve subsequent crosslink demonstrations and continue to work towards demonstrating operational feasibility. In the future, additional data types will be demonstrated and incorporated into CAPS to deliver navigation knowledge to users in orbit and on the surface of the Moon.

Extended mission plans will be considered beyond this next mission phase if the spacecraft continues to weather the conditions posed by lunar radiation and thermal environments.

Operational lessons learned - shared with NASA and infused into other upcoming missions

The CAPSTONE mission has overcome multiple challenges on its way to the Moon and to completing its Primary Mission. These challenges have provided numerous lessons learned for the team on how to improve operations on the way to and operating at the Moon that will support future missions. Specifically, Advanced Space has briefed NASA program teams and continues to support technical interchanges so that lessons learned can be infused to support national objectives with regard to the Moon. These valuable insights have been shared with NASA Johnson Space Center and will be shared with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center next month which is fitting as Goddard is where CAPS as a technology started in 2017 as a Phase I SBIR.

The CAPSTONE spacecraft is equipped with an imager. This imager was included to support technology demonstration as well as public awareness objectives. Three in-flight imager tests have been conducted, all taking place after the start of the primary mission. Imaging activities will continue as the spacecraft's close approaches to the lunar surface allow resolution of some features.

SpaceDaily Analyst Report

Analyst A - Space Technology Analyst Rating: 10/10

A Space Technology Analyst would find this article highly relevant. The CAPSTONE mission led by Advanced Space, which is exploring new orbiting trajectories and testing navigational technologies for lunar operations, is a significant step forward in space exploration. The details on the mission's accomplishments, its upcoming "Enhanced Mission" phase, and the challenges overcome provide important insights. The primary audience from this perspective includes other space technology companies, investors in the sector, and space agencies like NASA.

Analyst B - Communication Technology Analyst Rating: 9/10

A Communication Technology Analyst would also find this article important. The CAPSTONE mission's testing of new communication and navigation technologies, particularly the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS), are critical for future lunar operations. This audience for this perspective includes communication technology firms, IoT solution providers for space operations, and research institutions focused on communication technologies.

Analyst C - Lunar Research Analyst Rating: 10/10

A Lunar Research Analyst would find the article extremely relevant. The CAPSTONE mission's exploration of the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) and its future implications for the Gateway lunar space station are crucial. This perspective's primary audience includes scientists researching lunar missions, governmental space agencies, and universities.

Analyst Summary

Advanced Space's CAPSTONE mission has completed its primary six-month operation in the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), a significant milestone in space exploration technology. The mission has successfully tested new lunar operational and navigational technologies, including the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS), which has critical implications for future lunar missions. As the mission moves into the "Enhanced Mission" phase, further achievements and challenges are expected that will shape future lunar operations.

Over the past 25 years, space exploration has evolved from mainly manned missions to increasingly autonomous operations, with a strong focus on communication and navigation technology. The CAPSTONE mission reflects these trends and pushes the boundaries, with its focus on autonomous navigation and the novel orbit in lunar vicinity.

1.Specific Details/Aspects of the Topic Analysts might ask: What specific technologies and maneuvers were critical to the CAPSTONE mission's successful six-month operation in the NRHO? This will help to understand the details of the mission and the technologies involved.

2.Implications for the Broader Industry Another question might be: How might the outcomes and technologies tested in the CAPSTONE mission influence the future of lunar operations and the wider space exploration industry? This will help to assess the potential impact of the mission on the broader industry.

3.Potential Future Developments What are the potential future developments in lunar operations and navigation technologies that might stem from the CAPSTONE mission's successes? This will help to understand the future trajectory of the industry.

4.Challenges or Obstacles What challenges and obstacles did the CAPSTONE mission face during its primary mission, and what might it face in its "Enhanced Mission" phase? Understanding these challenges can shed light on the potential difficulties in executing similar missions in the future.

5.Responses from Key Industry Stakeholders What have been the responses or reactions from key industry stakeholders, such as NASA and other space agencies, to the CAPSTONE mission's outcomes? This can provide insights into the potential influence of the mission in the industry more broadly.

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