CAPSTONE over the Moon’s North Pole. After arrival at its cis-lunar destination, CAPSTONE will begin its 6-month-long primary mission. The mission will validate a near rectilinear halo orbit’s characteristics by demonstrating how to enter into and operate in the orbit.
Illustration credit: NASA/Daniel Rutter


NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat mission is set for its Moon-bound departure to demonstrate a unique orbit for future NASA Artemis missions.

Liftoff from the Rocket Lab launch facility in Mahia, New Zealand atop the firm’s Electron booster is now set for Tuesday, June 28, 2022. CAPSTONE launch broadcast coverage from New Zealand starts at 5:00 a.m. EDT. Instantaneous launch opportunity is at 5:55 a.m. EDT.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket sits on the pad at the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand for wet dress rehearsal ahead of the CAPSTONE launch.
Credit: Rocket Lab


The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Equipment (long space-speak for CAPSTONE) is to head for cislunar space – the orbital area near and around the Moon – and demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology.

Orion spacecraft pulls up to Gateway.
Credit: NASA

Gateway outpost

The destination for this microwave oven-size CubeSat is a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), the orbit of choice planned for Gateway, the multipurpose outpost for long-term lunar missions as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

The Gateway in lunar orbit is where astronauts will transfer between the Orion piloted spacecraft and the lander on regular Artemis missions.

Gateway will remain in orbit for more than a decade. In that time it provides a place to live and work, and support long-term science and human exploration on and around the Moon.

CAPSTONE team members install solar panels onto the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. in Irvine, California.
Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart

Key players

CAPSTONE is commercially owned and operated by Advanced Space in Westminster, Colorado, on behalf of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Other key players for CAPSTONE include:

  • Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc., a Terran Orbital Corporation: Spacecraft design, development and implementation, hardware manufacturing, assembly, testing and mission operations support.
  • Stellar Exploration: Propulsion subsystem provider.
  • Space Dynamics Lab (SDL): Iris radio and navigation firmware provider.
  • Orion Space Solutions (formerly Astra): Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) hardware provider necessary for the 1-way ranging experiment.
  • Tethers Unlimited, Inc.: Cross Link radio provider.

Six days after launch, the Rocket Lab Photon upper stage will release CAPSTONE into space for the first portion of the spacecraft’s solo flight.

After a four-month journey to the Moon, CAPSTONE will test the dynamics of the NRHO for at least six months.

Live launch coverage will begin at 5 a.m. Eastern on NASA Television, at:

Leave a Reply