CAPSTONE Goes The Distance For NASA’s Artemis Program

CAPSTONE Goes The Distance For NASA’s Artemis Program
The pathfinding CAPSTONE lunar satellite reaches apogee – its farthest point from Earth (Image Credit: NASA)
The satellite reached its highest altitude at an apogee of 1.538 million km from Earth – the highest any Terran Orbital developed vehicle has ever flown

Terran Orbital today announced the CAPSTONE spacecraft successfully achieved its highest altitude – a point known as apogee – at 2:35 p.m. E.T. on August 26. Terran Orbital developed and co-operates the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONE, in cooperation with NASA and led by Advanced Space. 

Apogee occurs when a satellite follows a non-circular orbit around the earth, creating an orbital ellipse with the center of the earth at one focus. Such a satellite has variable altitude and variable orbital speed. The point of highest altitude is called apogee. Details of CAPSTONE’s apogee are as follows:

  • CAPSTONE passed 1.5 million km from Earth at 15-AUG-2022 11:11:00.0000 UTC
  • CAPSTONE reached its absolute max apogee on 26-AUG-2022 19:36:07 UTC when it reached 1.538 million km from Earth

CAPSTONE’s max apogee of 1.538 million km from Earth beats previous Terran Orbital vehicle distances by many orders of magnitude to form a new record. 

The dominance of the Sun’s gravitational pull enables CAPSTONE’s extreme distance as part of a ballistic lunar transfer (BLT) trajectory. CAPSTONE is using a BLT to reach and test the unique orbit around the Moon known as the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). The NRHO is the intended orbit for Gateway, a lunar space station that will support NASA’s Artemis program. The significantly elongated orbit forms a precise balance point in the gravities between the Earth and the Moon and requires less propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moon’s surface than circular orbits. 

“Terran Orbital is thrilled to guide CAPSTONE through and beyond apogee,” said Terran Orbital Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Bell. “We greatly value our partnership with Advanced Space and are forever grateful to NASA for creating the historic Artemis program. Together, we are bringing people back to the Moon.

The 55-pound CAPSTONE will arrive at the Moon on November 13.

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