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Having regained communications with CAPSTONE, engineers prepare for first mid-course burn

Engineers are now preparing CAPSTONE for its first first mid-course engine burn, slightly late due to a loss of communications during the past two days.

The spacecraft is in good health and functioning properly.

The CAPSTONE team is still actively working to fully establish the root cause of the issue. Ground-based testing suggests the issue was triggered during commissioning activities of the communications system. The team will continue to evaluate the data leading up to the communications issue and monitor CAPSTONE’s status.

If all goes well, that engine burn will occur as early as 11:30 am (Eastern) on July 7th.

Conscious Choice cover

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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.  
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  • sippin_bourbon

    Another source.

    The recovery bodes well.

    Let’s hope they find the cause.

  • Jeff Wright

    What is to be done with the discarded upper stage?

  • David Eastman

    I haven’t found a definitive answer on what is planned for the Lunar Photon stage, but the burns they did on that stage before releasing CAPSTONE all raised apogee while leaving perigee very low, so it’s orbit should decay back into the atmosphere relatively soon. I would be unsurprised if it can do one more burn to make that a controlled re-entry.

  • Gary M.

    Whew. Glad that they got communications back. Hopefully they can find a cause.

    sippin_bourbon Thanks for the link.

    Advanced Space has a happy hour. “Informal Networking Happy Hour Events for the Space Community!”

    Fix Capstone, time for a beer!

    It would be fun if Mr. Z dropped in on one of these and reported back to us. That would be real Space Journalism.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Found this:

    I do not know the source of the image. It is not from the press kit from RKLB.
    However it implies that that the Photon stage (not the upper or 2nd stage) will continue in interplanetary space.

    Peter Beck posted this last night.
    It is already past the Moon.

  • Andrew_W

    The Photon is following the same trajectory as Capstone, likely Beck intends to put it into lunar orbit, it has the fuel and the solar panels to do this and continue functioning for some time.

  • Richard M

    Sounds like they know more now. Basically, there were two problems: an improperly formatted command sent up, and a flight software flaw.

    “After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.

    “During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software.

    “CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.

    “While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.

    “The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon.”


  • Richard M: Um, I posted a link to this story yesterday at 10:39 am, including much of the same quote. No need to repost it today.

  • Edward

    That is a sophisticated satellite for its size. A 3U cubesat is the size of a loaf of bread, and this one, CAPSTONE, is a 12U size — four loaves put together, 8″x8″x12″ (20cm square by 30cm). Clearly, the market for components for cubesats is maturing.

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