US space agency NASA has delayed the scheduled launch of the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon over systems checks.NASA was earlier targeting Monday for the launch."NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space are standing down from the June 27 launch attempt for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon to allow Rocket Lab to perform final systems checks," agency officials said in a statement.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is a microwave oven-sized CubeSat weighing just 55 pounds. It will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit.
CAPSTONE will fly in cislunar space - the orbital space near and around the Moon. The mission will demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution at the Moon from a near rectilinear halo orbit slated for Artemis' Gateway.
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.After arrival at the Moon, CAPSTONE will begin its 6-month-long primary mission.
The mission will validate a near rectilinear halo orbit's characteristics by demonstrating how to enter into and operate in the orbit.Its mission objectives include demonstrate spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation services that allow future spacecraft to determine their location relative to the Moon without relying exclusively on tracking from Earth; lay a foundation for commercial support of future lunar operations; and gain experience with small dedicated launches of CubeSats beyond low-Earth orbit, to the Moon, and beyond.
The teams are evaluating weather and other factors to determine the date of the next launch attempt. The next launch opportunity within the current period is on June 28, the agency said."CAPSTONE's trajectory design means that the spacecraft will arrive at its lunar orbit on November 13 regardless of launch date within the current period, which offers launch opportunities every day through July 27", it added.