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Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE)NASA has partnered with Advanced Space to develop and build the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission which will serve as a pathfinder for Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NHRO) operations around the Moon. The NHRO, (Perilune = 3,200 km; Apolune = 70,000 km) will be the intended orbit for the NASA’s Artemis Gateway lunar orbital platform. The CAPSTONE mission will validate simulations and confirm operational planning for Gateway while also validating performance of navigation and station-keeping requirements for the Power and Propulsion Element. Thus, this mission will provide operational experience to NASA, commercial, and international missions for operations in a demanding orbital regime.

The baseline for CAPSTONE is to fly a 12U cubesat developed, integrated, and tested by Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems carrying a payload communications system capable of cross-link ranging with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a dedicated payload flight computer for software demonstration, and a camera. The launch, coordinated by NASA Launch Services Program, will be provided by a Rocket Lab launch vehicle utilizing their new Proton upper stage to deploy the CAPSTONE spacecraft into the lunar orbit. The CAPSTONE mission is targeting a launch no earlier than September 23, 2021. Upon launch, the spacecraft will traverse a highly efficient transfer taking approximately three months to enter a primary demonstration phase in an NRHO for six months followed by a twelve month technology enhancement operations phase.

The CAPSTONE Project is lead by Advanced Space, LLC of Boulder Colorado. Spacecraft development and mission operations will be conducted by Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems of Irvine, California. Noted objectives for the CAPSTONE mission will be to demonstrate the accessibility of NHROs, validate key operational concepts in the NHRO environment, lay a foundation for commercial support of future lunar operations and accelerate the availability of peer-to-peer navigation capabilities provided by the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS).

The CAPSTONE mission is funded through NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP), which is one of several programs in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. SSTP is chartered to develop and demonstrate technologies to enhance and expand the capabilities of small spacecraft with a particular focus on enabling new mission architectures through the use of small spacecraft, expanding the reach of small spacecraft to new destinations, and augmenting future missions with supporting small spacecraft. The launch for the CAPSTONE Mission is provided by Human Exploration & Operations Missions Directorate Advanced Exploration Systems Division. Coordination and Acquisition of the Launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program. The CAPSTONE Mission and project status will be presented.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Ames Research Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Elwood Agasid
(Ames Research Center Mountain View, California, United States)
Roger Hunter
(Ames Research Center Mountain View, California, United States)
Bradley Cheetham
(Advanced Space, LLC)
Date Acquired
March 4, 2021
Publication Date
March 29, 2021
Publication Information
Subject Category
Space Communications, Spacecraft Communications, Command And Tracking
Meeting Information
Meeting: 2021 CubeSat Developers Workshop
Location: Virtual
Country: US
Start Date: April 27, 2021
End Date: April 29, 2021
Sponsors: California Polytechnic State University
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 582181.
WBS: 582181.
WBS: 582181.
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
NASA Technical Management
Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit
Small Spacecraft
Peer-to-Peer Navigation
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