The microwave-sized satellite was successfully released from its orbit around the Earth on Monday and headed towards the Moon, the latest in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the surface of the Moon. Is the step.
It was already an unusual voyage for the Capstone satellite. It was launched six days ago from the Mahia Islands of New Zealand by the Rocket Laboratory Company in one of their tiny electron rockets. It will take another four months for the satellite to reach the moon, as it travels using less energy.
Peter Beck, founder of Rock Labs, told the Associated Press that it was hard to put his passion into words.
“Maybe it will take some time to sink into it. It was a project that took us two, two and a half years and just surprisingly, certainly difficult to implement,” he said. “So to see it all come together tonight and see those spacecraft on their way to the moon, it’s absolutely legendary.”
Beck said the relatively low cost of the mission – NASA put it at .7 32.7 million – marked the beginning of a new era for space exploration.
“For tens of millions of dollars, there is now a rocket and a spacecraft that can take you to the moon, steroids, Venus and Mars,” Beck said. “It’s a crazy ability that never existed before.”
If the rest of the mission is successful, the Capstone satellite will send back vital information for months as it first acquires a new orbit around the moon called a near rectangular halo orbit: an egg-shaped shape with one end of the orbit. Closer to the moon and farther away.
Finally, NASA plans to launch a space station called Gateway into orbit, from where astronauts can descend to the surface of the moon as part of the Artemis program.
Beck said the advantage of the new orbit is that it reduces fuel consumption and allows the satellite or space station to remain in constant contact with the Earth.
The electron rocket, launched from New Zealand on June 28, carried a second spacecraft called the Photon, which detached nine minutes later. The satellite was transported in photons for six days, with satellite engines firing from time to time to lift its orbit farther and farther from Earth.
On Monday, one last engine allowed a photon to break through the Earth’s gravitational pull and launch the satellite. The plan now is for a 25-kilogram (55-pound) satellite to monitor the moon before returning to its new orbit on November 13. The satellite will use a small amount of oil to correct a few planned trajectory courses along the moon. the way
Beck said they will decide in the coming days what to do with Photon, who has completed his duties and still has some oil left in the tank.
“There are a number of really great missions out there that we can really accomplish,” Beck said.
For the mission, NASA partnered with two commercial companies: the California-based Rocket Laboratory and Colorado Advanced Space, which owns and operates the Capston satellite.
NASA hopes the New Zealand launch will pave the way for it to reach the moon
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