Rocket Lab to launch CAPSTONE Moon mission from New Zealand

Rocket Lab said that it will launch its commercial Moon mission, called CAPSTONE, from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand from the fourth quarter of this year.

It will be the maiden launch to the Moon for the launch and space systems company.

Originally, the launch of the CAPSTONE CubeSat was planned for lift-off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2 located in Virginia.

CAPSTONE, which expands to Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, will help NASA’s Artemis program.

The NASA program involves the landing of the first woman and the first colored person on the Moon and setting up a long-term presence there.

CAPSTONE, which is a satellite weighing 55 pounds, was created and is owned by Colorado-based Advanced Space, which is also the operator of the mission. It will be launched on an Electron launch vehicle and will be deployed from Photon spacecraft platform of Rocket Lab.

Rocket Lab to launch CAPSTONE Moon mission from New Zealand using the Electron launch vehicle

Rocket Lab to launch CAPSTONE Moon mission from New Zealand using the Electron launch vehicle. Photo courtesy of Business Wire.

The satellite’s main objective is for testing and verifying the calculated orbital stability of a near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon, which is the same orbit intended for the Lunar Gateway.

According to Rocket Lab, CAPSTONE will help in lowering the risk for spacecraft in the future by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of the halo-shaped orbit.

Peter Beck — Rocket Lab CEO said: “Flexible isn’t a word usually used to describe lunar missions but operating two launch complexes gives us the freedom to select a site that best meets mission requirements and schedule.

“Our team is immensely proud to be launching one of the first pathfinding missions to support NASA’s goal of delivering a sustainable and robust presence on the Moon. We’ve teamed up with the NASA Launch Services Program on previous Electron missions to low Earth orbit, so it’s exciting to be working with them again to go just a bit further than usual…some 380,000 km further.”

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