Startup startup Rocket Lab was commissioned by NASA to start a CubeSat for the agency's CAPSTONE experiment, with the aim of launching the CAPSTONE CubeSat in Cislunar (in the region between the Earth) and the moon orbit – the same orbit that NASA will eventually use for its Gateway Moon space station. The start is planned for 2021.
CAPSTONE is launched in the new Rocket Lab launch complex 2 (LC-2) at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Rocket Lab officially opened its launch pad there in December and will begin its first missions with its Electron vehicle from the site later this year.
Takeoff is important in many ways, including the second lunar mission ever to take off from the Virginia aircraft facility. Rocket Lab's Photon platform will also be used, a specially developed and built satellite that can support a range of payloads. In this case, Photon transports the CAPSTONE CubeSat, which weighs only around 30 kg, from earth's orbit to the moon. At this point, CAPSTONE will start its own small engines to enter cislunar orbit.
Rocket Lab led Photon one last year, at which time it was found that it was partially designed for the delivery of small, long-range satellites ̵
CAPSTONE will play a key role in this mission by "paving the way" for the lunar gateway that NASA will eventually build and use.
"CAPSTONE is a quick, risk-tolerant demonstration that sets out to learn more about it." A unique seven-day cislunar orbit that we are also targeting for Gateway, ”said Marshall Smith, director of human moon research programs at NASA, in a press release. Detailed information about the news "We not only rely on this predecessor data, but can reduce navigation uncertainties before our future missions with the same lunar orbit."
Overall, the launch contract with Rocket Lab has a fixed price of $ 9.95 million, said Agency. NASA expects Advanced Space and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems to begin building the CAPSTONE spacecraft this month before its planned launch in 2021.