Advanced Space has received a $13.7M contract from NASA to produce and operate a small satellite designed to provide navigation support for logistical needs of NASA and partners while circling the Moon in a halo orbit.
The company will build the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment cubesat, which will operate at the same lunar orbit of NASA’s Gateway, the space agency said Friday. NASA plans to launch the CAPSTONE mission by December 2020.
CAPSTONE, a small, microwave oven-sized satellite, will feature a communications system geared to measure the mission’s distance from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter robotic spacecraft, which was created to map the Moon’s surface and now carries out additional scientific objectives.
NASA will use data gathered by CAPSTONE to inform future demonstrations of autonomous navigation software.
The CAPSTONE mission serves as a precursor to the Artemis mission, NASA’s effort to continue human exploration on the Moon. Gateway will function as stopover or outpost for astronauts on the way to the lunar surface.
“This is an exciting opportunity for NASA to aggressively push forward towards the Moon in partnership with several American small businesses as a vanguard to Artemis and sustained human presence beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.