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NSSDCA ID: 2022-070A


The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is a technology demonstration designed to go into a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. The primary objectives of the demonstration are to reduce risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technologies; verifing the feasibility of entering into and operating in the NRHO; characterizing the dynamics of the orbit; and serving as a precursor to the Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), in orbit around the Moon since 2009, will serve as a reference point for CAPSTONE to test its navigation technologies. The intention is for CAPSTONE to communicate directly with LRO and utilize the data obtained from this crosslink to measure how far it is from LRO and how fast the distance between the two changes, which in turn determines CAPSTONE’s position in space.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

CAPSTONE is a 12-unit CubeSat measuring 34 x 34 x 61 cm and having a total mass of about 25 kg. The spacecraft is supplied power by solar panels and provided propulsion by a monopropellant hydrazine system. An S-band antenna array is used for communication with LRO and an IRIS X-band radio is used for primary communication and navigation with NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Mission Profile

The spacecraft launched on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from its Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand carrying CAPSTONE within its Lunar Photon upper stage, on 28 June 2022 at 9:55 UT (5:55 a.m. EDT). After launch, Lunar Photon performed a series of orbit-raising maneuvers to put CAPSTONE into a trans-lunar trajectory. Once released from Lunar Photon on 4 July, CAPSTONE traveled four months under its own propulsion. On 8 September, during or immediately after the 3rd trajectory correction maneuver, the spacecraft started tumbling due to a partially open valve in one of the 8 thrusters and went into safe mode. Ground controllers managed to correct the error and put the spacecraft back into a stable mode over the next few weeks.

The spacecraft inserted itself into the NRHO with an engine burn that ended at 00:39 UT on 14 November (7:39 p.m. EST 13 November). In this orbit, CAPSTONE will come within about 1600 km of one lunar pole and then pass roughly 70,000 km above the other pole every seven days. It will continue in this orbit for at least six months, testing communications with LRO and ground stations on Earth.

For more information, see:

Image credit: NASA

Alternate Names

  • Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2022-06-28
Launch Vehicle: Electron
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Mass: 25 kg

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science
  • Technology Applications
  • Engineering

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Elwood AgasidProgram ManagerNASA Ames Research
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