NASA Is Back in Contact With Its Satellite

Space agency had temporarily lost communications with CAPSTONE exploring lunar orbit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2022 6:45 AM CDT
Updated Jul 7, 2022 8:45 AM CDT
NASA: We've Lost Contact With Microwave-Sized Spacecraft
Systems engineer Rebecca Rogers, left, takes measurements of the CAPSTONE spacecraft in April at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems in Irvine, Calif.   (Dominic Hart/NASA via AP)

(Newser) Update: We have contact with CAPSTONE once again. Just hours after NASA announced Wednesday that communications had been lost with the 55-pound, $32.7 million satellite it sent into space to test-drive a new lunar orbit, the space agency reported that it has restored contact, per the AP. NASA had previously had one solid communications interaction, then a partial one on Monday, before what the Weather Channel describes as a "communication hiccup." NASA notes "the spacecraft is in good health and operated safely on its own while it was out of contact with Earth." It's not clear why CAPSTONE fell out of contact in the first place, but it's being looked into. Our original story from Wednesday follows:

NASA said Tuesday it has lost contact with a $32.7 million spacecraft headed to the moon to test out a lopsided lunar orbit, but agency engineers are hopeful they can fix the problem. After one successful communication and a second partial one on Monday, the space agency said it could no longer communicate with the spacecraft called CAPSTONE, which stands for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. Engineers are trying to find the cause of the communications drop-off and are optimistic they can fix it, NASA spokesperson Sarah Frazier said Tuesday.

The spacecraft, which launched from New Zealand on June 28, had spent nearly a week in Earth's orbit and had been successfully kick-started on its way to the moon when contact was lost, Frazier said. The 55-pound satellite is the size of a microwave oven and will be the first spacecraft to try out this oval orbit, which is where NASA wants to build its Gateway outpost. Gateway would serve as a staging point for astronauts before they descend to the lunar surface. The orbit balances the gravities of Earth and the moon and so requires little maneuvering (and therefore fuel) and allows the satellite—or a space station—to stay in constant contact with Earth.

(Read more lunar exploration stories.)

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