From completing the mission to exceeding expectations, our spacecraft flew its 18-month mission at the Moon and will continue flying.

WESTMINSTER, CO, 29 May 2024 – A project that began as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project celebrated an important milestone this month: Advanced Space’s pioneering Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE™) satellite completed its original 18-month mission for NASA. This commercially owned, built, and operated 12U CubeSat has addressed a number of critical space technology challenges, including flying beyond Earth orbit to a complex Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) at the Moon, performing maneuvers and operations for the future Lunar Gateway station, and testing a new approach to in-space navigation using the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS™) software. And this journey isn’t over!

Bradley Cheetham, Advanced Space’s President and CEO, stated, “This mission has not been easy. This team has overcome technical challenges and operational anomalies, and it has persevered through a global pandemic to launch less than three years from the start of the program. It’s taken a lot of work on the part of our team members at Advanced Space, NASA, Terran Orbital, Morehead State University, and the rest of our mission partners, but it’s all been worth it. I’d like to congratulate everybody associated with CAPSTONE. This is your opportunity for a victory lap! Thank you to all those involved – job well done!”

Launched on June 28, 2022, the spacecraft’s insertion maneuver at the Moon was completed on November 18. CAPSTONE has spent over 18 months accomplishing all of its operational objectives and taking on some additional roles as well. The platform has served as a critical test bed that will enable spacecraft autonomy. This includes a demonstration of first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence software. As the first commercial spacecraft and first CubeSat to operate at the Moon, this pathfinding mission has plenty of fuel in its tank and the CAPSTONE team has formulated more exciting advancements to further enable the future.

CAPSTONE™ is owned and operated by Advanced Space. It is one of the first CubeSats to fly in cislunar space – the orbital area near and around the Moon – and demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology. The mission launched on June 28, 2022. 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 supported the launch and mission operations. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida was 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 & implementation, hardware manufacturing, assembly, testing & mission operations support.
  • Stellar Exploration: Propulsion subsystem provider.
  • Rocket Lab USA, Inc.: Launch provider for 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.
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