NASA has awarded a contract to a small enterprise for the event of a CubeSat designed to show using the distinctive orbit planned for the company’s lunar Gateway.
The $13.7 million contracts to Colorado firm Advanced Space covers the development of Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), a 12-unit CubeSat that the company may launch as quickly as by the end of 2020.
The spacecraft will probably be the first spacecraft to make use of what’s referred to as a close to-rectilinear halo orbit, an elliptical polar orbit across the moon whose nearest point to the moon is over one pole and the most distant point is over the opposite pole. NASA plans to make use of that orbit for the lunar Gateway, which can function a staging level for human landings close to the south pole of the moon beginning in 2024.
CAPSTONE will reveal that the orbit is steady for spacecraft, lowering what NASA calls “logistical uncertainty” for the Gateway. The spacecraft may even check a navigation system that can measure its position relative to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the way that distance is altering over time, permitting the CubeSat to measure its place without counting on ground stations.
Partnering with Advanced Space on the mission is Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a CubeSat developer. Brad Cheetham, a chief government of Advanced Area, mentioned Tyvak would present the spacecraft whereas Advanced Space will deal with general project management and a few of the spacecraft’s key technologies, like its navigation system.
Advanced Space has been engaged in lunar navigation technologies, together with winning a Space Act Agreement with NASA in July for that system, known as the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS). That earlier settlement, Cheetham mentioned, will help CAPS, and thus the CAPSTONE mission, by giving the company access to NASA expertise in addition to resources from the Lunar Reconnaissance Mission.