CAPSTONE made its initial insertion into the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) on Sunday, November 13th. Two smaller correction maneuvers will take place this week to ensure the spacecraft is confirmed into the complex lunar orbit. This NRHO is an orbit around the Moon that has never been flown before and it is the intended orbit for the Gateway space station. NASA intends to use Gateway to support Artemis missions to the lunar surface. CAPSTONE is the first CubeSat to fly to and operate at the Moon.

The leadup to the NRHO insertion maneuver (NIM) was quite busy behind the scenes. Ever want to see what happens leading in the Mission Operations room, here’s a glimpse into the play-by-play action of the CAPSTONE Mission Team (as designed/planned) in the hours leading up to the insertion:

  • 4:23pm MT: The radio ceased transmissions and oriented the solar panels at the Sun to top the batteries off.
  • 5:08pm MT: The spacecraft slewed to the burn attitude and let the fuel settle in the tank.
  • 5:22:27 MT: The spacecraft began execution of the NRHO Insertion Maneuver (NIM). It thrusted at about 0.44 Newtons (equivalent of the weight of about 9 pieces of 8.5x11in paper in your hand!!).
  • 5:34:22 MT: NIM as designed was complete. It lasts just under 16 minutes
  • 5:34:28 MT: Spacecraft slews to Sun-Point to recharge batteries.
  • 5:39:09 MT: NIM burn officially ends.
  • 6:00 MT: Initial data received and insertion into the orbit was executed as planned
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