Lunar Probe Capstone Tumbles Out of Control Through Space

Abdul Ghani

After losing contact, NASA lost control of the Capstone spacecraft again. On September 8, Advanced Space, the operator of NASA's small lunar probe Capstone, lost contact with the mission during the third corrective maneuver. It has since been restored. The probe also appears to be on the right course, but it tumbles through space unstabilized. On September 12, Advanced Space explained what is known about the malfunction.
Artist's rendering of the Capstone lunar probe.Image by NASA/Creative Commons

The problem is said to have only occurred towards the end of the corrective maneuver so that the probe is on the right course. It must have been a malfunction that produced a torque that could no longer be balanced by the flywheels on board the probe. As a result, the probe began to wobble and lost contact with the earth, which could only be restored after 24 hours.

The only way to avoid losing the mission was to quickly reconfigure the lunar probe to minimize power consumption. Without stable attitude control, the solar panels are no longer aligned with the sun and generate less electricity than the systems consume. Since then, Advanced Space has been analyzing the problem. The next steps should be the reactivation of deactivated heating elements and the engines in order to then restore attitude control.

The second malfunction of the mission

The cause of the malfunction is still unknown. It is the second loss of contact with the mission. The first problem appeared just 11 hours after the probe was launched in July. Unlike today, however, the probe was in a stable flight position before the contact was lost. The combination of an incorrectly formatted command and an error in the onboard software is said to have been the cause of this malfunction.

Capstone is intended to demonstrate autonomous navigation in a stable halo orbit around the moon, the use of which requires particularly little fuel for corrective maneuvers. The Artemis program's Lunar Gateway space station is intended to use a similar orbit.

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Member Of Freelancers Union (USA), Freelance Writer!, and Digital Creator. Ghani Mengal is an enthusiast Freelance blogger and digital marketer. His content has been published and featured on many popular blogs, websites, and publications. Including TeelFeed,, Data-Driven Investor, TextSniper, Scientific Publication The Predict, The Startup, The Ascent, Heart Affairs, Illumination, And The List goes on.


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