CAPSTONE Team Regains Attitude Control of Spacecraft – No More Falling in Space

CAPSTONE Mission to Moon Animation
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CAPSTONE Mission to Moon Animation

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, is a CubeSat that will fly in a unique orbit around the Moon designed for Gateway, NASA’s future Artemis lunar outpost. Its six-month mission will help usher in a new era of deep space exploration. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

On Friday, October 7, members of the CAPSTONE team successfully performed an operation to stop the spacecraft from spinning. This removes a major obstacle to returning the spacecraft to normal operations.

After the planned trajectory correction maneuver on September 8, CAPSTONE ran into trouble put the spacecraft into safe mode. It soon became clear that the spacecraft was rotating beyond the capacity of the on-board reaction wheels to control and react. According to data from the spacecraft, the most likely cause was a valve problem in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusts. A partially open valve means a faulty boost when the transmission system is pressurized. After extensive review of telemetry and simulation data, the mission team conducted numerous tests on the spacecraft to formulate a plan to stop the spacecraft from spinning despite this problem.

On Friday morning, recovery orders were implemented. Based on initial telemetry from CAPSTONE and surveillance data showing that the spacecraft has stopped its rotation and regained full 3-axis attitude control, the maneuver appears to have been successful. This means that the position of the CAPSTONE can be controlled without unplanned rotation. CAPSTONE now points its solar arrays at the Sun to maximize energy production. It also adjusted the pointing of its antennas to provide a better data connection to Earth.

The risks of this anomaly and recovery process were significant, and the team worked extensively and collaboratively to mitigate these risks. In the coming days, the team will continue to monitor the condition of the spacecraft and make necessary adjustments to procedures to account for and mitigate the effects of the partially open thrust valve. The mission team will also try to develop possible fixes for the problem with this valve to reduce the risk for future maneuvers.

CAPSTONE is on track to enter its targeted rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon on November 13.

CAPSTONE – short for Cislunar Autonomous Landing System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – ​​is owned by Advanced Space.[{” attribute=””>NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by Terran Orbital. Operations are performed jointly by teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital.

Read the full update from Advanced Space. Additional updates will be provided, as available.

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