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NASA has reestablished contact with one of its satellites which had lost communication en route to the moon.
Engineers were able to contact the tiny CubeSat on Wednesday after it stopped communicating with the Deep Space Network on Tuesday. The DSN is NASA’s radio antenna array that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions as well as some Earth orbits.
The CubeSat is the operating and navigation experience of Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System technology, also known as CAPSTONE. The satellite left Earth orbit on Monday, marking a milestone in its planned four-month journey to the Moon.
Connection difficulties forced the mission team to delay the satellite’s first trajectory correction maneuver originally scheduled for July 5, NASA said. This is a series of fixes planned to increase the accuracy of orbit transfer to the moon.
After CAPSTONE successfully left Earth orbit, it began charging its onboard battery using solar panels, according to an update from NASA.
The CubeSat is awaiting trajectory correction and remaining on the planned global trajectory for its ballistic lunar transfer, NASA said.
The satellite will depend on its own propulsion and the sun’s gravity for the rest of its journey. Gravity will allow the CubeSat to use much less fuel to reach its destination.
The mission launched aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on June 28.
The goal of CubeSats is to enter an elongated orbit, which is an almost rectilinear halo orbit, around the moon for at least six months for research purposes.
The satellite’s orbit will bring the spacecraft within 1,000 miles (1,609.3 kilometers) of a lunar pole at its closest pass and within 43,500 miles (70,006.5 kilometers) of the other pole every seven days.
The mission team hopes the satellite can maintain orbit, which could allow the agency to launch and place a lunar outpost called the Gateway. the outpost would play a crucial role in NASA’s Artemis program by providing future spacecraft with an efficient path to and from the moon’s surface.
In addition, the small satellite will also test its communication capabilities. The orbit provides a view of Earth while providing coverage of the lunar south pole, which is the planned landing spot for Artemis astronauts in 2025.
The CubeSat will also communicate with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft that has circled the moon for 13 years. It will serve as a reference point for the satellite and allow scientists to measure the distance between the CubeSat and LRO, as well as CAPSTONE’s location in the sky.
Space enthusiasts can follow the satellite’s journey using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System.
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