NASA’s Spacecraft Headed For The Moon Is Tumbling Out of Control – And It Is In Deep Trouble

NASA’s tiny, Moon-bound CAPSTONE probe is once again in hot water after its launch earlier this summer. It appears to be going out of control now.

NASA and Advanced Space gave their statements that the company managing the small cube-shaped satellite admitted that an unknown issue caused CAPSTONE to tumble last week in what the contractor described as an “emergency.”

“The mission operations team is currently focused on recovery plans,” it wrote. “These efforts will begin by working to improve the thermal situation of several subsystems including the propulsion subsystem.”

In fact, ground control lost contact with the cubesat for a whole day, and when it restored the connection, it showed that its “onboard computer systems were periodically resetting, and the spacecraft was using more power than it was generating from its solar panels.” This has raised a lot of concerns and may raise questions about the reliability of small satellites in serious space exploration missions since CAPSTONE is aimed to test the orbit for NASA’s Lunar Gateway. This Gateway is a major component of its plan to land astronauts on the Moon in several years.

Though communications have been reestablished, CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) is still not stable. The whole thing is, to use Terran parlance, a hot mess.

Advanced Space says it’s now preparing an operation to stumble the spacecraft and reorient its solar panels to the Sun.

CAPSTONE has had major issues in the past as well. Just a week after its launch in late June, NASA lost contact with the 55-pound lunar probe, re-establishing the connection about a day later. The problem, NASA said, was a software error, with space experts celebrating its reestablished lines of communication and saying they were “root[ing] for the little guy.”

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