Awesome! NASA successfully saves CAPSTONE spacecraft

NASA teams have successfully succeeded in stopping the CAPSTONE spacecraft from spinning after a month. Here’s what had happened.

| Updated on: Oct 10 2022, 22:06 IST
Wow! Second by second account of NASA craft crashing on Asteroid; check in photos
DART mission
1/5 NASA’s Double Asteroid Detection Test or DART test is a nearly $330 million mission to smash a spacecraft into the Dimorphos asteroid to deflect it away from its path. NASA had already sent the DART spacecraft to space in November, 2021 which included a satellite made by the Italian Space Agency. (Bloomberg)
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2/5 This stunning photo was captured 2.5 minutes before collision with the target Asteroid Dimorphos. According to NASA, the target asteroid Dimorphos is an asteroid moonlet nearly 530 feet in width. Dimorphos orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos, nearly 5 times its size. (Reuters)
3/5 This amazing image was captured just 11 seconds before the impact. captured through cameras of a small companion satellite, which was the spacecraft’s camera called cubeSAT LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids), was ejected from the DART spacecraft and followed it, 3 minutes behind, to the target asteroid Dimorphos. (Reuters)
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4/5 This extremely close-up image of the surface of target asteroid Dimorphos was captured just 2 seconds before impact with the asteroid. The DRACO system along with Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation (SMART Nav) algorithms aboard the DART spacecraft allowed it to distinguish between the larger Didymos and its target Dimorphos, striking the asteroid with precision accuracy, according to NASA. (Reuters)
Hera spacecraft
5/5 Although the spacecraft successfully collided with the asteroid, there is no clarity as yet whether the asteroid was actually deflected. To confirm that, European Space Agency’s Hera spacecraft will observe the impact caused by the collision of DART spacecraft and Dimorphos asteroid. The space agency has already launched its Hera spacecraft which will travel to the same asteroid to observe the impact. (ESA)
CAPTONE spacecraft
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NASA finally saved CAPTONE spacecraft from spinning. The space agency explained how. (NASA)

NASA has finally managed to save its spacecraft that was spinning itself to death! A month ago on September 8, NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft had suffered an issue which caused the spacecraft to spin uncontrollably. It caused the spacecraft to spin even beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to control and counter. Later, data revealed that it was most likely caused due to a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft's eight thrusters. NASA explained that the partially open valve means the thruster can produce thrust whenever the propulsion system gets pressurized.

Thankfully, a trajectory correction manoeuvre on September 7 has finally helped to stop NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft spinning due to an issue that the onboard reaction wheel could not control or counter. After the emergence of the issues, the mission team of CAPSTONE extensively reviewed telemetry and simulation data to conduct multiple tests on the spacecraft in order to design a plan to fix the issue of the spacecraft's spin.

“Recovery commands were executed Friday morning. Initial telemetry from CAPSTONE and observation data points to a successful maneuver, indicating the spacecraft has stopped its spin and regained full 3-axis attitude control, meaning CAPSTONE's position is controlled without unplanned rotation,” NASA confirmed via blog. After clearing the hurdle, CAPSTONE has now oriented its solar arrays to the Sun as well as adjusted the pointing of its antennas to provide a better data connection to Earth.


CAPSTONE which is short for - Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment – is owned by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA. "CAPSTONE launched on June 28, 2022 aboard a Rocket Lab's Electron rocket from the company's Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand to test cutting-edge tools for mission planning and operations, paving the way and expanding opportunities for small and more affordable space and exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and other destinations throughout the solar system,” NASA explained about the mission.

Now, CAPSTONE spacecraft remains on its track to insert into its targeted near rectilinear halo orbit at the Moon on November 13. However, in the coming days, the CAPSTONE team will keep an eye on the spacecraft status and make any needed adjustments. The mission team will also work to design possible fixes for this valve-related issue to avoid any future risks.

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First Published Date: 10 Oct, 22:06 IST
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