NASA has reportedly postponed the moon launch of the new CAPSTONE CubeSat citing system checks. The CubeSat was set to be launched on an Electron booster developed by Rocket Lab.
The Advanced Space-led mission was slated to initiate launch from a pad in New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The next launch date for the CAPSTONE CubeSat is June 28th.
According to NASA, however, the agency and partner companies could initiate the mission any time before July 27th and still ensure that the microwave over-sized CubeSat reaches Moon by November 13th.
The mission has been repeatedly delayed since last year, first due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and then due to further system checks on the CubeSat and its booster.
For the uninitiated, CAPSTONE is a 55-pound small spacecraft developed to test a new path around the moon dubbed near rectilinear halo orbit.
The orbit follows an elliptical path around the moon and is the one the U.S. space agency will potentially use for its proposed Gateway astronaut space station under the Artemis program.
As part of the mission, CAPSTONE will be mounted on an Electron booster from Rocket Lab and use its Photon stage to reach the moon. This will be Rocket Lab’s first Photon deep-space mission.
If all goes according to the plan, CAPSTONE will detach from Photon around six days after launch and slowly reach the moon in four months.
As part of the USD 30 million mission, the spacecraft will perform communications and navigation experiments for at least six months once it is in the final orbit. The spacecraft will fly around 1,000 miles closer to the lunar surface and as far as 43,500 miles from the moon.
NASA has also recently made history with the successful launch of a rocket from the remote Northern Territory of Australia, indicating its first commercial launch outside the United States.