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Engineers lose contact with CAPSTONE on its way to Moon

Shortly after the spacecraft was successfully deployed from its Proton upper stage on yesterday, engineers lost contact with the spacecraft as it headed towards the Moon.

“The spacecraft team currently is working to understand the cause and re-establish contact. The team has good trajectory data for the spacecraft based on the first full and second partial ground station pass with the Deep Space Network,” NASA spokesperson Sarah Frazier wrote in an emailed statement today (July 5).

“If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post-separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days,” Frazier added. “Additional updates will be provided as soon as possible.”

The spacecraft will not arrive in lunar orbit until November, but along the way it needs to do a number of course corrections. Thus, there is some time pressure to reestablishing communications. That task now falls with the private company Advanced Space, which won a contract to operate the spacecraft for NASA.

UPDATE: More details are provided by the operators of the spacecraft, Advanced Space press, here. Though they canceled a course correction burn today, they apparently have plenty of time to do it, since the probe is already on a course to reach lunar orbit. The burn was simply intended to increase the accuracy of the trajectory.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Curious if this (or any) spacecraft has enough AI to do the course corrections and enter Lunar orbit. This would seem a reasonable fail-safe capability.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I doubt it. There is talk about a scheduled course correction that can be delayed a few days if needed. Sounds like they were planning some burns very soon.

    The question is did they put a failsafe in the programming for failed comms. If no communication if x amount of hours, then perform actions that may restore comms.

  • Jeff Wright

    Great-more cis-lunar trash to avoid. Toy size, so hard to track.

  • “Great-more cis-lunar trash to avoid. Toy size, so hard to track.”

    Yeah, we’re going to have to have some tracking requirements for space-launched items. Something similar to aircraft transponders. We are in the time of cis-lunar environmental responsibility, which is great. Keeping our act clean in space is what living on a planet is supposed to teach.

  • Andrew_W

    Interestingly the Photon bus which nemains close to the PL still has enough propellant to get itself into Capstones intended near-rectilinear halo orbit.

  • Jeff Wright

    Off topic…I remember The Dream Machines having a bullet atop a conical pile of powder-and it looked like a wing top. I wonder if a self eating rocket could be delta wing shaped-burning both more short and narrow-maybe airbreathing as the upper stage provides fuel for an ever-widening scramjet that dissolves upon vacuum. Launch from airport-no metal cans to fall on villages. Maybe I Love Zero X too much.

  • Andrew_W

    There is talk of Lunar Photon completing some of the tasks intended for Capstone if the latter cannot be recovered.
    “[Bailey Morgan] confirmed it was possible that rocket lab’s lunar photon spacecraft could manoeuvre into the same lunar orbit that capstone has been aiming for.”

  • Andrew_W

    This from Gunter’s space page; “In this mission, the Lunar Photon acts both as an upper stage for the CAPSTONE and as an independent satellite bus carrying some instruments on its own. Reportedly Lunar Photon will perform a Lunar fly by taking some images by after deploying the CAPSTONE satellite.”

    It would be so Peter Beck to take advantage of the opportunity to run his own Lunar mission, there seems no good reason for Lunar Photon, as a boost stage, to be equipped with solar cells – but it’s got solar cells.

  • Andrew_W

    Communication with Capstone has been reestablished.

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