In this case, NASA is not paying space companies to launch one of their satellites into space. The payload also comes exclusively from the private sector project. However, the office is funding the mission with $ 13.7 million, as it is testing entirely new capabilities that could later help NASA.
The transported payload is the Cubesat system, which weighs only 25 kilograms. This is the so-called Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS). This basically prepares you for the time when you can expect significantly more traffic around the Moon. CAPS is intended to enable safer navigation of upcoming manned and unmanned lunar missions of various countries and organizations. The launch is scheduled for Saturday from New Zealand with the Electron rocket.
Halo-Orbit in the test
Chris Baker, a senior engineer at NASA, explained that the space agency is interested in this type of technology because it is already preparing its own plans to handle growing near-moon traffic – including its own Artemis missions and commercial spacecraft to bring NASA’s scientific payload to lunar surface.
The CAPSTONE mission currently being prepared will benefit NASA in other ways as well: It will orbit the moon in a special orbit, the so-called halo orbit. It is a highly elliptical orbit that periodically approaches about 3,000 kilometers from the Moon and travels up to 70,000 kilometers from the Moon. In this orbit, the spacecraft is well balanced between the gravity of the Moon and the Earth and requires only a small amount of fuel. The orbital experience should also benefit future long-term missions to the moon.