Nasa loses contact with Capstone satellite

Capstone in orbit near the Moon. Photo: Illustration: Nasa / Daniel Rutter
Capstone in orbit near the Moon. Photo: Illustration: Nasa / Daniel Rutter
Nasa says it has lost contact with a satellite launched from New Zealand and now heading towards the Moon.

In a statement, the American space agency said it was having communications issues and was working to re-establish contact.

"Following successful deployment and start of spacecraft commissioning on 4 July, the Capstone spacecraft experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network. The spacecraft team currently is working to understand the cause and re-establish contact.

"The team has good trajectory data for the spacecraft based on the first full and second partial ground station pass with the Deep Space Network. If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post separation trajectory correction manoeuvre for several days."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Rocket Lab, which oversaw the launch, said their involvement in the project was successful and they were working with Nasa to offer any support they can.

"The comms issue occurred after a successful launch on Rocket Lab's Electron rocket and successful deployment from our Lunar Photon spacecraft. That deployment marked the successful completion of Rocket Lab's role in the mission. From that point and now, the operation of Capstone is managed by Advanced Space and Nasa.

"Right now our Lunar Photon spacecraft is on the same trajectory as Capstone, is performing well, and has propellant remaining, so we're working with Nasa to assess what support Lunar Photon might be able to provide to the mission."

Rocket Lab launched the Capstone micro-satellite spacecraft from the Māhia Peninsula in Hawke's Bay on June 28.

Yesterday, Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said the spacecraft would be able to get to other parts of the near solar system, like Venus and Mars, cheaply and more frequently.

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