Launches: CAPSTONE recovery continues
Attempts to regain control of the tumbling CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft took a turn for the better after a week-long effort, as mission controllers at Advanced Space improved contact with the lunar probe following an anomaly during a trajectory maneuver on September 8, 2022, that sent it spinning.
The mission team provided an update on their progress Thursday (September 15, 2022), reporting headway in getting the craft back under control:
The communications situation has dramatically improved, the power state of the spacecraft appears to be sufficient for continuous (duty cycled) heating of the propulsion system which dropped below its operational temperature. Over the past few days, CAPSTONE’s power – though limited by the orientation of the spacecraft in its spin relative to the sun – appears to be sufficient for heating of the propulsion system.
What went wrong with CAPSTONE?
Two days after the incident, Advanced Space made public the mission’s uncertain status and provided this summary of what appeared to go wrong:
The CAPSTONE spacecraft was executing a planned trajectory correction maneuver Thursday evening, September 8th. We have since obtained telemetry that confirms the vehicle suffered an anomaly near the end of the planned maneuver and is currently in safe mode. The CAPSTONE mission team has good knowledge of the state and status of the spacecraft. The anomaly resolution has been enabled by the exceptional support of the team at NASA’s Deep Space Network.
In the same update was more good news:
The mission operations team is in contact with the vehicle and working to resolve the anomaly. As resolution efforts progress, more updates will be provided. The spacecraft remains on its planned course to the moon.
Advanced Space gave a more detailed report of the events resulting in losing control of CAPSTONE.
Bottom line: Controllers improved communications with the CAPSTONE spacecraft following a loss of control on September 8, 2022.