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NASA Will Fly CubeSat Direction Signal to Gateway in Unique Moon Orbit – Spaceflight Now

Highly elliptical near the rectilinear halo around the moon takes advantage of an accurate balance point in the gravitations of the Earth and the moon and creates stability that is ideal for long-range missions such as the Gateway. Credit: Advanced Space

Immediately next year, NASA plans to launch a microwave-sized CubeSat in a unique elliptical orbit around the moon as a scout for a future lunar gateway, a mini space station that NASA intends to use as a moon landing point, starting immediately after 2024.

The commercially available CubeSat, called CAPSTONE, will conduct deep-space navigation experiments and demonstrate maneuvers for entering and operating in a close orbital, elliptical orbit eye lo moon, which will be Gateway's home, a critical piece of NASA architecture to bring people back to the moon's surface.

The Trump administration directed NASA to attempt to land a lunar landing by the end of 2024. Earlier this year, NASA named the Artemis, twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology.

Along with the Orion Crew Ferry Capsule, the Space Launch Space Launch Missile and the new human-estimated Moon Helmet, Gateway is a major component of NASA's Artemis program.

The first section of the gateway, known as the Power and Propulsion Element, is scheduled for release in late 2022. PPE will be built by Maxar Technologies in partnership with several companies. , including Blue Origin, which can provide a rocket launcher for the first Gateway element.

A module for providing basic housing for astronauts will launch by the end of 2023. NASA has selected Northrop Grumman for a sole-source contract, which also built the Gateway habitation outpost to be obtained from Cygnus's supply ship of the company that transports cargo to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, according to NASA's current plans, SLS will launch its first test flight ̵

1; probably not earlier than 2021 – with an unmanned Orion spacecraft in a roughly circular so-called long-range retrograde orbit around the moon. A crew of four can launch in 2022 or 2023 on the next SLS / Orion mission and fly on a circuit around the moon – without entering lunar orbit – before returning to Earth on a free return trajectory.

Prior to launching from the first Gateway element, NASA's CAPSTONE mission will for the first time reconnoitre the near-straight orbit or NRHO.

"The Gateway is not dependent on this mission, but CAPSTONE will probably be the first spacecraft in the immediate area to be a linear halo and it is a dynamic environment … (with) the influence of multiple gravitational bodies," says Christopher Baker, Program Manager NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology. "So CAPSTONE will help us reduce logistical uncertainty by confirming what our models are telling us, including the dynamics of entering NRHO, staying in that orbit, low-energy power paths for the Gateway … and then this is them too ic demonstration partner – 19-year-navigation solution for tsislunarno space. "[19659003] CAPSTONE means Cislunar Autonomous System Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment.

The near-linear orbit halo will take the CAPSTONE spacecraft and eventually the Gateway. 1,000 miles (1,500 kilometers) and up to 70,500 miles from the moon.

The orbit chosen for the Gateway "is the orbit of the moon, but is rather an orbit between Earth and the moon," said Marshall Smith, director of NASA's lunar human exploration programs.

The near-rectilinear orbit of the halo There are several advantages, Smith said Thursday in a presentation to Na

A station in such an orbit would have continuous communication with Earth and allow landings departing from the gateway to reach any location on the lunar surface with only moderate use of fuel, Smith

Illustration by the artist for a gateway in orbit around the moon, with a power and propulsion unit, a habitation module, and a visiting Orion Crew cargo ship and capsule Credit: NASA

A gateway station is needed since the Orion spacecraft, which will transport crews to and from the moon's surroundings does not have the ability to maneuver directly in and out of the low-altitude lunar orbit, i.e., similar to the Apollo spacecraft in the 1960s and 1970s.

"We've been watching orbits for a long time," Smith said Thursday.

The Orion spacecraft was originally designed in the mid-2000s for the moon of the NASA constellation program under the administration of George W. Bush. The constellation behind schedule program was canceled in 2010, and the Obama administration wanted to bypass a lunar landing program and focus on a human expedition to Mars.

The constellation-era Orion spacecraft would have a US-built service module containing rocket-propelled rocket engines and energy-generating solar arrays.

A service module manufactured by the US would be able to change the speed of the Orion spacecraft in space by up to 4,000 mph or 1800 meters per second during a mission, Smith said.

"Great, we could go into low moon orbit and do whatever we want to do," Smith said. "But at one point we decided that we would not go to the moon after the Constellation … and we wanted to have an international partnership."

The common speed change, or the delta-V provided by the European spacecraft Orion

"It's not enough to go into low moon orbit (and return to Earth)," Smith said. "But we didn't go to the moon. we go near the moon because we go to mars … So we made the change to do that.

"We have the ability to place Orion in low moon orbit," Smith said Thursday. "We can't remove it because there isn't enough delta-V, which is a problem. SLS can put it there … That's not the problem. Many people blame SLS for this. This is not SLS This is an ESA service module that does not have delta-V.

"So we are limited in our capabilities with Orion, so we have to look at higher orbits, and what we want to do is take a close passage to the moon," Smith said.

The near straight orbit halo provides just that. A circular orbit farther from the moon, such as the distant retrograde orbit previously preferred to a Mars-oriented base, will require a lunar lander to have a stronger ability to fly to the lunar surface and back into space.

"What do we want to do so that the descent element and the ascending element (on the ground) have the lowest Delta-V value possible," Smith said. "So we want to have a close approach (to the moon in every orbit). This NRHO allows us to have a close approach. "

Smith said Thursday that the release of NASA's final request is" inevitable "for US companies to submit rated farmer projects. Before the end of the year, NASA aims to select up to four companies to refine their lunar lands.

This suggests that NASA receives an additional $ 1 billion from Congress in its budget for fiscal 2020, funding requested by the Trump administration earlier this year to begin efforts to develop lunar land. The remainder of the White House's $ 1.6 billion budget proposal for the Artemis program included money to keep the development timetable for SLS and Orion to meet the Trump administration's 2024 deadline. [19659003] NASA's lunar program kept pace with the human lunar landing period in 2028, before Vice President Mike Pence ordered the agency in March to move the four-year term.

The fiscal 2020 budget bill, passed by the House of Representatives in June, does not include $ 1.6 billion in additional funding for the Artemis program. A bill passed by the Senate Committee on Credit this week proposed $ 744 million for the development of human-grade lunar landmarks, $ 256 million of what NASA said was necessary.

Cislunar Lustration Autonomous System for Positioning Technological Operations and Navigation Experiment (
Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems

While funding for lunar landing in 2024 remains uncertain, NASA is moving forward with Gateway. [1965933] ] NASA announced Sept. 13 that it has awarded a $ 13.7 million contract to Advanced Space, a small company based in Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate CAPSTONE CubeSat.

"CAPSTONE will be the first satellite mission that Advanced Space is managing, "writes Bradley Cheetham, president and CEO Advanced Space, via email. "As a company, we have supported the planning and operations of partner and client missions, but this will be our first mission as a core. This is an exciting opportunity for us to demonstrate and enhance our mission enabling rapid and rapid technology in an affordable way. "

In a statement, NASA described CAPSTONE as a" fast lunar flight demonstration "that could launch as early as December 2020. [19659003]" This mission is highly ambitious in both cost and cost. schedule – and taking that deliberate risk is ACT on the purpose of this mission – along with the rapid technological development tsislunarnata navigation and the ability to verify the assumptions orbital trajectory and to withdraw for unknown future missions, "said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of the Directorate of space technology to NASA.

CAPSTONE will carry a communications system to determine its range by NASA's Lunar Intelligence Orbiter and how quickly the distance changes. The experiment will demonstrate deep-space autonomous navigation software – well above GPS satellites – allowing future spacecraft to determine their location without relying on Earth-based tracking.

"Ultimately, we must enable navigation with reduced Earth dependence," Baker said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. "So if one mission, in the LRO case, is able to determine its location based on communications with Earth's assets, and another mission, such as CAPSTONE, is able to determine its relative position beyond that spacecraft, then CAPSTONE and everyone another spacecraft like it can find out where it is in space without having to rely on direct Earth support for this navigation assistance. "

CAPSTONE will carry a small camera, but no other payloads.

" Beyond the hardware for the navigation experiment, there's a camera, but in the interest of speeding and maintaining the CubeSat ethos, we're really trying to keep the spacecraft

The CAPSTONE spacecraft is funded by NASA's Space Technology Directorate. The Baker Human Space Flight will pay for launching CAPSTONE with a commercial rocket, or as a secondary payload on a large booster. or

"Rideshare or specially designed small carrier rockets are all in the kingdom (if possible)," Baker said. "We just want to do it fast, at a low cost and with use

About three months after launch, CAPSTONE will use its proprietary propulsion system – powered by green fuel or hydrazine fuel – to operate in the intended proximity to the orbital rectilinear orbit.

"This is actually part of an experiment using this propulsion system to get into this near-straight halo and then stay within that near the straight-line halo," Baker said. "We are currently trying to use green fuel.

CAPSTONE's core mission is scheduled to continue about six months after arriving in orbit around the moon, according to NASA.

Advanced Space is developing a CAPSTONE lunar navigation experiment and will manage a mission for NASA. Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a small builder in California, will produce the CAPSTONE space platform.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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