The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, CAPSTONE, led by Advanced Space, was launched seven weeks ago to perform its historic pathfinding mission to the Moon for NASA.
The award was selected by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Small Spacecraft Technical Committee, Some of the criteria for the award were to demonstrate a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites, spacecraft structural design, scientific instrument development, and communications capabilities, all characteristics of the microwave-sized 12U smallsat designed and built by Terran Orbital.
CAPSTONE is 55 pounds and will help inform future operations in cislunar space and for the future lunar space station in the near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), the intended orbit for the Gateway as part of the Artemis program.
The spacecraft also will demonstrate the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS) technology that will enable spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation services reducing reliance on Earth-based ground systems.
CAPSTONE’s cubesat creation and operations success stems from the collaboration of many small businesses transforming the future of space exploration.
Chris Baker, Small Spacecraft Technology program executive of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), received the award on stage at the 36th Annual Small Satellite Conference in Utah. He was joined on stage by key members of the CAPSTONE Mission team – principal investigator and CEO of Advanced Space, Bradley Cheetham, chief engineer of Advanced Space and mission program manager, Tom Gardner, NASA Ames STMD Deputy Program Manager, Elwood Agasid, Keith Thompson of Terran Orbital, Tomas Svitek of Stellar Exploration, and Richard French of Rocket Lab. CAPSTONE uses a monopropellant, hydrazine-fueled, propulsion system that was developed and implemented by Stellar Exploration Inc. and was launched on an Electron by Rocket Lab.
“Thank you to NASA Ames for the nomination, to the SmallSat committee for the recognition, and to our resilient Advanced Space team, and to all our mission partners. We have come a long way and still have a way to go but are on a trajectory to arrive at the Moon on November 13th and we continue to make history,” said Bradley Cheetham, Advanced Space’s chief executive officer. “Congratulations to all the nominees for the award, we are honored to be recognized among such competition. It is tremendous to see the breadth of technical prowess in the category.”
CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space and is the first cubesat to fly in cislunar space – the orbital area near and around the Moon – and demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology. Critical partners in the CAPSTONE mission include:
- NASA: CAPSTONE’s development is supported by the Space Technology Mission Directorate via the Small Spacecraft Technology and Small Business Innovation Research programs at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
- The Artemis Campaign Development Division within NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate supports the launch and mission operations.
- NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management.
- NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory supported the communication, tracking, and telemetry downlink via NASA’s Deep Space Network, Iris radio design and groundbreaking 1-way navigation algorithms.
- Terran Orbital Corporation: Spacecraft design, development and implementation, hardware manufacturing, assembly, testing and mission operations support.
- Stellar Exploration: Propulsion subsystem provider.
- Rocket Lab USA, Inc.: Launch provider launching CAPSTONE on a three-stage Electron launch vehicle.
- Space Dynamics Lab (SDL): Iris radio and navigation firmware provider.
- Orion Space Solutions (formerly Astra): Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) hardware provider necessary for the 1-way ranging experiment.
- Tethers Unlimited, Inc.: Cross Link radio provider.
- Morehead State University (MSU): Operates the newest “affiliated node” on the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN). Providing telemetry, tracking and control services for NASA and commercial space missions and to engage university students in deep space mission operations.