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Advanced Space to Operate Cubesat Mission for NASA

By | September 16, 2019
Space Analysts Predict a Golden Age for Cubesats… If they Can Get Launched

Rendition of cubesats in orbit. Photo: NASA

NASA awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate a cubesat mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway – an orbiting outpost astronauts will visit before descending to the surface of the Moon in a landing system as part of NASA’s Artemis program. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is expected to be the first spacecraft to operate in a near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. In this unique orbit, the CubeSat will rotate together with the Moon as it orbits Earth and will pass as close as 1,000 miles and as far as 43,500 miles from the lunar surface.

The pathfinder mission represents a rapid lunar flight demonstration and could launch as early as December 2020. CAPSTONE will demonstrate how to enter into and operate in this orbit as well as test a new navigation capability. This information will help reduce logistical uncertainty for Gateway, as NASA and international partners work to ensure astronauts have safe access to the Moon’s surface. It will also provide a platform for science and technology demonstrations.

“This is an exciting opportunity for NASA to aggressively push forward towards the Moon in partnership with several American small businesses as a vanguard to Artemis and sustained human presence beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “This mission is highly ambitious in both cost and schedule – and taking that deliberate risk is part of the objective of this mission – alongside the rapid technological advancement in cislunar navigation and the opportunity to verify orbital trajectory assumptions and retire unknowns for future missions.”