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Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations And Navigation Experiment
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To The Moon

Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Corporation, built the spacecraft for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONETM. The spacecraft is based on Terran Orbital’s Voyager platform. The satellite includes a radio tower on top that extends its size from a traditional 12U form factor. CAPSTONETM will not go directly to the Moon but instead follow a “ballistic lunar transfer” that will take it out as far as 1.5 million kilometers before returning into lunar orbit. That transfer, which will take about four months to complete, is designed to save propellant, making the mission feasible for such a small spacecraft. The CAPSTONETM payload and its software are owned and operated by Advanced Space for NASA.

As a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost that is part of NASA’s Artemis program, CAPSTONETM will help reduce the risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). Its location at a precise balance point in the gravities of the Earth and the Moon offers stability for long-term missions like Gateway and requires minimal energy to maintain. CAPSTONE’s orbit also establishes a location that is an ideal staging area for missions to the Moon and beyond.

CAPSTONETM launched aboard a Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. With a highly ambitious schedule, CAPSTONETM will demonstrate key commercial capabilities. NASA partners will test cutting-edge tools for mission planning and operations, paving the way and expanding opportunities for small and more affordable space and exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and other destinations throughout the solar system.




Technology, interplanetary


Advanced Space for NASA’s (AES)


12U Satellite

Launch Date

June 28, 2022

Launch Vehicle

Rocket Labs Electron Photon-IP

Mission Length

14 Months

Mission Completion

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Rocket Labs Electron Photon-IP

The launch vehicle is CAPSTONE’s ride to space. Launching since 2017, Rocket Lab’s Electron rockets have delivered 100+ satellites to orbit on time and on target. Electron will provide the Lunar Photon upper stage and CAPSTONETM with the initial ride to low Earth orbit.

The Photon Spacecraft

Once Electron reaches low Earth orbit, The Lunar Photon upper stage takes the reigns to deliver the CAPSTONETM spacecraft onto its highly efficient ballistic transfer orbit to the Moon.

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