Houston, we have a problem: Capstone nanosatellite derails

Houston, we have a problem: Capstone nanosatellite derails

Houston, we have a problem: Capstone nanosatellite derails

At the end of a maneuver, a new malfunction was detected in the Capstone nanosatellite. The machine, en route to the Moon, must test the orbit that will use the future lunar station.

Definitely, the journey of the Capstone nanosatellite to the moon is not an easy one. Leaving Earth at the end of June 2022, NASA’s exploration spacecraft has been suffering from a new failure for several days. This is the second time the small machine has encountered a problem. There had already been a communication problem with Capstone in early July, thankfully fixed since then.

The incident was the subject of a communication from the American space agency dated 10 September, which described anomalous behavior at the end of a planned maneuver consisting in the correction of the Capstone trajectory. This flight adjustment, which occurred on the 8th, caused the aircraft to switch into a safe mode for an unknown reason. Communications work, after a short interruption.

The nanosatellite still follows the correct course to the Moon

A NASA update on Sept. 12 warns that Capstone is still in this safe mode and options for returning the spacecraft to its normal state are being evaluated. The vehicle is well supplied with energy thanks to its solar panels. Previously, there was a concern for consumption, which was more than it could get.

The good news, despite the circumstances, is that nanosatellite remains on the road it must take to reach the moon. Since the problem started towards the end of his maneuver, there are no obvious drift problems in relation to the trajectory calculated by the ground crew. Capstone has already completed four more course corrections previously.

It really is a very small satellite, as you can see in this image. // Source: NASA / Dominic Hart

To date, the origin of the glitches affecting Capstone has not been identified. At the same time, NASA is trying to regain full control of the aircraft, in particular to change its orientation. The goal here is to expose its solar panels more directly to the sun to recharge the batteries as much as possible and compensate for the loss of energy following an operation that should be attempted shortly.

Obviously, we shouldn’t expect an immediate resolution of the problem, because NASA hints at a program of a few days to evaluate and apply these recovery operations.

Capstone, an acronym for ” Experiment of technological and navigation operations of the Cislunar autonomous positioning system “, It serves as a sort of scout for NASA to experience a particular orbit around the Moon – it’s called halo orbit (NRHO for Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit). It is in this orbit that the future lunar station will be placed.

Capstone is the first concrete milestone of the Artemis program, which aims to bring astronauts back to the moon within the next decade. But above all, everyone is waiting for Artemis I, which will be the baptism of fire for the new SLS (Space Launch System) heavy launcher. The vehicle will be uninhabited. However, he is currently having some difficulty preparing for the flight.

For further

The space launch system.  // Source: NASA / Sam Lott (cropped photo)

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