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NASA satellite breaks Earth's orbit, will approach the Moon

A NASA satellite has finally broken free of Earth's orbit and is now on a journey toward the moon to break an orbit record.

Published Jul 5, 2022 12:32 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 28 2022 12:48 AM CDT

NASA is moving forward with its ambitions of taking humans back to the Moon with the launch of the CAPSTONE satellite.

NASA satellite breaks Earth's orbit, will approach the Moon 02 |

The satellite was launched from New Zealand last week aboard Rocket Lab's Electron rocket, and for the six days after launch, the small 55-pound satellite was continuously increasing its altitude and speed. After gaining enough speed, the NASA satellite broke free of Earth's orbit and began its relatively slow journey to the Moon.

The space agency explains that the CAPSTONE satellite stands for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, and after its four-month journey to the Moon (arriving in November), it will enter a never-before-flown orbit where it will fly within 1,000 miles of the Moon's North Pole, and 43,500 miles from the South Pole at its farthest orbital point. The CubeSat will stay in this elongated orbit for six and a half days to study dynamics.

"CAPSTONE is a pathfinder in many ways, and it will demonstrate several technology capabilities during its mission timeframe while navigating a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon. CAPSTONE is laying a foundation for Artemis, Gateway, and commercial support for future lunar operations," said Elwood Agasid, project manager for CAPSTONE at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

CAPSTONE will also demonstrate key technologies in NASA's effort to get humans back on the Moon. The space agency explains that the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System, a new spacecraft-to-spacecraft communications and navigation system designed to work with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, developed by Advanced Space, will be demonstrated.

Notably, NASA writes that the potential of the new technology may allow spacecrafts to determine the location of other spacecrafts within their proximity without tracking data from Earth. Furthermore, the small 55-pound satellite has new one-way ranging technology that, if proven effective, could reduce the communication time between Earth and off-planet spacecrafts.

All of these new technologies that are aboard CAPSTONE are NASA's stepping stones toward taking humans back to the Moon. As for when NASA will put humans back on the Moon, the space agency announced that it's targeting a launch window between August 23 and September 6 for the Artemis 1 mission, where the agency will send an uncrewed spacecraft around the Moon.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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