A small probe travels to the Moon with the aim of solving a decades-old question

The CAPSTONE satellite seeks to determine the best orbit for a future NASA lunar station 


To do this, you must solve the problem of ‘the three bodies’.

NASA is finalizing details for the launch of CAPSTONE , a satellite that the Artemis mission relies on to find the best route to the Moon .

The satellite, which was expected to launch this Monday, has been delayed to check for some problems behind it. Although there is still no clear date for its launch, its success will be vital for the space agency.


CAPSTONE , or Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment , is a small 25-kilogram spacecraft designed to test a novel path around the Moon called a near-rectilinear halo orbit.

The orbit, which follows an extremely elliptical path around the satellite, is the same one NASA hopes to use for its Gateway space station for astronauts as part of the Artemis program.

To do this, he must solve the three-body problem, a classic physics problem that tries to predict the relative motion of three point masses from their initial positions and velocities. In this case, those three bodies are the Earth, the Moon and the future Gateway space station.

Under the mission, CAPSTONE will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron booster and use the company’s Photon stage to help get to the Moon . It is Rocket Lab’s first deep space mission with Photon.

The mission has been repeatedly delayed since 2021, first due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and later due to the need for more checks on the cubesat and its booster. It is expected to reach our satellite in November.

key to space

CAPSTONE is expected to be able to fly on June 28, but, thanks to NASA calculations , it can be launched on any day until July 27 to meet its November 13 arrival schedule.

If all goes well, CAPSTONE will separate from its Photon journey six days after launch and slowly make its way to the moon over about four months. Once in its final orbit, the spacecraft is expected to spend at least six months conducting navigation and communications experiments as part of its $30 million mission. It will fly as close as 1,600 km to the Moon and as far as 70,000 km from the lunar surface.