To prepare for the implementation of the programFor the creation of the Gateway inhabited near-moon station, NASA, the US space agency, entered into a partnership agreement with Rocket Labs, which pledged to launch the Cubsat CAPSTONE into orbit of the moon. The satellite will be delivered to the orbit of the moon by the Electron rocket carrier, the launch of which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.
The orbit around the moon, which will be inGateway's future habitable station is unexplored and non-standard. It is for the study of the near-rectilinear halo - orbit, which has never been verified by artificial satellites, and the CAPSTONE kubsat will be launched.
Kubsat is a satellite consisting of“Cubes” with a side of 10 centimeters, and the number of these cubes is indicated by a number with the letter U (unit). The CAPSTONE lunar cubate, developed in the bowels of the Colorado company Advanced Space, will be quite large: 12U is a size comparable to a microwave. The mass of the satellite will be 25 kg. For the development of CAPSTONE, NASA allocated $ 13.7 million.
CAPSTONE launcher will runRocket Labs with Photon, a platform for small spacecraft weighing up to 30 kg, developed on the basis of the Electron rocket. Technically, this is the third step, allowing the satellite to start from near-Earth orbit to enter the near-moon orbit. To enter the moon's halo orbit (three-dimensional orbit through the Lagrange points), CAPSTONE will launch its own engines. The space maneuver is designed for three months.
Rocket Lab is not the first time to launchspace satellites of the Cubsat type, at the end of 2018, thirteen similar small satellites were put into low Earth orbit. The next stage in the development of a startup will be the launch of cubsats into a lunar orbit.
CAPSTONE Cubsat launch is estimated at $ 9.95 million and will be launched from the new launch pad LC-2, the Wallops Space Center in Virginia.