Three key members of the CAPSTONE™ team—Program Manager and Operations Lead Alec Forsman, Mission Design Lead Ethan Kayser, and Principal Investigator and Advanced Space CEO Bradley Cheetham—visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to share lessons learned from the mission, as well as to discuss potential future collaborations.

With over a year of activity in cislunar space, the CAPSTONE team has derived many navigational, problem-solving, and operational lessons from its experiences. These lessons learned will be of use to NASA, not only to Gateway, which was one of the CAPSTONE mission objectives, but to other small-sat missions at NASA.: CAPSTONE is the first spacecraft to use a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), which will be used by the Lunar Gateway space station. Additionally, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS) system being tested by CAPSTONE can be used for navigation purposes by future NASA missions near and on the Moon.

JPL has been a key partner in CAPSTONE’s success, developing critical software used during the mission along with the spacecraft’s Iris radio, which enables Advanced Space to communicate with ground stations on Earth. The Iris radio was integrated with a Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC). The CSAC can gather accurate information to compute one-way measurements from the Deep Space Network (DSN), which CAPSTONE will use to calculate its location based on the timing and frequency of the signal sent from Earth. The Laboratory also manages the DSN, which tracks and maintains communication with CAPSTONE. This DSN team was critical to the mission and directly aided in the recovery of the spacecraft during two major anomalies.

Given the key roles JPL has played in CAPSTONE’s success, the Advanced Space team is grateful to JPL and NASA for their partnership. During this visit, The team participated in constructive meetings about the CSAC experiment, future small spacecraft missions, and opportunities for additional collaboration with the Laboratory. Sharing the experience gained from CAPSTONE and other ongoing missions at Advanced Space with engineers who have led the exploration of the solar system was a true privilege and the foundation for future collaboration is strong between these teams.
Alec Forsman looking at JPL's model of the Perserverance Mars Rover

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