Wallops Flight Facility will be launch pad for ‘CubeSat’ mission in 2021

Science

PHOTO COURTESY OF: NASA

WOLLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WAVY) — NASA has given the go-ahead to a California-based company to launch a satellite from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia that will orbit the moon in early 2021.

Rocket Lab was approved by NASA to launch the CAPSTONE CubeSat satellite into the moon’s orbit from Wallops Islandin early 2021. The contract with Rocket Lab is valued at $9.95 million.

The CubeSat will be launched aboard an electron rocket to get past Earth’s gravity, then will use its own propulsion system to get into a “cislunar” orbit.

Following the three-month trip to the moon, CAPSTONE will enter the moon orbit to collect important pathfinding data for lunar spaceship Gateway, a key piece of NASA’s Artemis program.

CAPSTONE will enter a “near rectilinear halo orbit” over the Moon’s poles to “verify its characteristics for future missions and conduct a navigation demonstration with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,” NASA said.

Illustration of CAPSTONE
CREDIT: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems

The data collected will be used to make future missions to the moon’s surface easier. NASA’s Artemis program is a plan to land a man and woman on the moon by 2024.

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