CAPSTONE’s departure from Earth orbit is barely a day old. Since launch on June 28, the spacecraft has been orbiting the planet while Rocket Lab has been in charge of positioning the spacecraft for its final destination before leaving for the Moon. But on July 5, just one day later, NASA announced that it had lost all communication with the spacecraft.
NASA spokeswoman Sarah Frazier wrote an e-mail confirming the situation to Space. She commented that they are trying to figure out the situation, and are also trying to re-establish contact with the lunar orbiter.
Currently, the spacecraft team is trying to understand the cause and re-establish contact. Good spacecraft trajectory data is available to the team from the first full pass and the second partial pass of the ground station with the Deep Space Network.
Frazier added that, if necessary, the mission has sufficient fuel “to delay the initial trajectory correction maneuver.” This step is after the separation of the orbiter with the rocket that carried it to its point. Also, she assures that they will be reporting during the next few days or as soon as possible.
Luckily for NASA, the initial contacts between CAPSTONE and their headquarters enable them to know the spacecraft’s trajectory. In other words, they at least know where to look with the Deep Space Network antennas, which are being used to communicate with the orbiter.
NASA may not have all the time in the world
That said, the space agency is faced with the task of fixing this problem as soon as possible. CAPSTONE is well on its way to the Moon. Even though at the moment the impact of Earth, solar and lunar gravity allows the spacecraft to continue its correct course, NASA will still need to make some revisions for it to successfully reach its destination: the Moon.