On June 28, 2022 Rocket Lab launched the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft for NASA and Advanced Space. On July 04, 2022, Rocket Lab's Lunar Photon spacecraft completed a trans lunar injection and successfully deployed CAPSTONE on its mission to the Moon.
Designed and built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Corporation, and owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA, CAPSTONE will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This is the same orbit intended for NASA’s Gateway, a multipurpose Moon-orbiting station that will provide essential support for long-term astronaut lunar missions as part of the Artemis program.
CAPSTONE’s primary objective is to test and verify the calculated orbital stability of a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, the same orbit planned for Gateway. NASA’s Gateway is a small space station that will orbit around the Moon to provide astronauts with access to the lunar surface. It will feature living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research and ports for visiting spacecraft. CAPSTONE will also test a navigation system developed by Advanced Space that will measure its absolute position in cislunar space using interaction with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter without relying on ground stations for navigation support.
CAPSTONE is one of the first steps to learn how to operate more robust missions in this unique orbit, thus laying the groundwork for future exploration of our solar system.
Learn more about the CAPSTONE mission:
All your mission information available here