Rocket Lab narrows the details first launch to the Moon. A private space company has discovered that its CAPSTONE mission will come out of the company’s original launch complex in New Zealand sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021. The mission was originally scheduled to be launched in early 2021 from NASA’s Wallops facility in Virginia.
Cubstat CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous System Positioning Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) will serve as a precursor to NASA Artemis program. It will test the propulsion needs for a highly elliptical lunar orbit, test spacecraft navigation systems to spacecraft, and demonstrate the potential for private support in future missions. A successful mission would help NASA’s future Gateway spacecraft safely approach the Moon and orbit it.
The launch should also represent a technical advancement for the Rocket Lab. While the Electron rocket will play a known role in carrying the mission into space, this will be the first time the company has used its Photon platform to place satellites on the lunar orbit.
CAPSTONE could serve as a buyout for the company. Rocket Lab dealt with two prominent ones rocket failures, and only recently continued launches after the May incident. A successful launch of the Moon would boost the return to form and show that the Rocket Lab can handle particularly ambitious projects.
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