NASA Awards Contract to Launch CubeSat to Moon from Virginia
NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.
Rocket Lab, a commercial launch provider licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, will launch the 55-pound CubeSat aboard an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. After launch, the company’s Photon platform will deliver CAPSTONE to a trans-lunar injection. The engine firing will allow the CubeSat to break free of Earth’s gravity and head to the Moon. Then, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion system to enter a cislunar orbit, which is the orbital area near and around the Moon. The mission is targeted for launch in early 2021 and will be the second lunar mission to launch from Virginia.
Following a three-month trip to the Moon, CAPSTONE will enter a near rectilinear halo orbit, which is a highly elliptical orbit over the Moon’s poles, to verify its characteristics for future missions and conduct a navigation demonstration with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. CAPSTONE will serve as a pathfinder for the lunar spaceship Gateway, a key component of NASA’s Artemis program.
The firm-fixed-price launch contract is valued at $9.95 million. In September, NASA awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate the CubeSat.
After a final design review this month, Advanced Space and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. of Irvine, California, will start building and testing the spacecraft.
CAPSTONE is managed by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Advanced Exploration Systems within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate supports the launch and mission operations.
To learn more about NASA’s Launch Services Program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/index.html.