After a month of careful tests and analysis, engineers today successfully regained full control of the CAPSTONE lunar orbiter, on its way to the Moon.
The most likely cause of the anomaly was identified as a valve related issue on one of the spacecraft’s eight (8) thrusters. The partially open valve resulted in thrust from the associated thruster whenever the propulsion system was pressurized. To attempt a recovery from this condition, the mission team conducted multiple tests on the vehicle and evaluated extensive telemetry and simulation data and then formulated a plan for attempting recovery of the vehicle’s full 3-axis control.
This recovery sequence was uploaded to the spacecraft yesterday (Thursday) and was executed early this morning (Friday 10/7). Initial telemetry and observation data after the recovery attempt points to a successful recovery of the system which has now regained 3-axis attitude control. The updated spacecraft attitude has oriented the spacecraft solar arrays to the Sun and implemented an orientation for the downlink antennas which significantly improves data downlink performance as compared to the pre-recovery attitude.
The spacecraft is not out of the woods yet. The engineers still need to figure out how to do future course corrections with “the possible presence of a valve that remains partially open.”
Nonetheless, that they have successfully regained full control means they have a very good handle on the issue, which bodes well for the lunar orbital insertion maneuver on November 13, 2022.
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