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NASA Awards Contract to Launch CubeSat to Moon

  • Category
    Miscellaneous
  • Published
    28th Feb, 2020
  • NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.

Context

  • NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.
  • Rocket Lab, a commercial launch provider licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, will launch the 55-pound CubeSat aboard an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. 
  • After launch, the company’s Photon platform will deliver CAPSTONE to a trans-lunar injection. 
  • CAPSTONE will demonstrate the stability of that orbit, which has never been used by a spacecraft before, to support planning for the Gateway. 
  • Rocket Lab will use Photon, the satellite bus it is developing based on the Electron rocket’s kick stage, to place CAPSTONE on a trajectory to the moon. 
  • CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion system to enter orbit around the moon and maneuver into that near-rectilinear halo orbit, a process that will take three months.
  • The launch will not be Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA. In December 2018 it launched 13 CubeSats for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
  • The launch will also be just the second mission to the moon launched from Wallops Flight Facility.
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