Is there anything that orbits the Moon? Yes, a few other active spacecraft and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are currently in orbit around the Moon. NASA CAPSTONE is one of the coolest CubeSats I’m excited about. It joined these other spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. As part of NASA’s Artemis program, it serves as Gateway’s pathfinder mission. Gateway is a space station that will be in orbit around the Moon. Here, astronauts will be able to get supplies and get ready for their trips to the lunar surface.
Did you know that the Moon’s orbits are extremely unstable?
It is extremely challenging to maintain an orbit around the Moon due to the extremely lumpy gravity of the Moon. It is possible for a satellite to actually collide with the Moon if its orbit is too close to the lunar service.
Is there anything that orbits the Moon? Yes. Currently, a small number of satellites orbit our closest planetary neighbor. They welcomed CAPSTONE, a CubeSat that was built to test a novel, halo-shaped orbit that will provide stability for long-term missions like our upcoming lunar Gateway space station, on November 13, 2022. Ahn Nguyen, a NASA Small Satellites Engineer, explains it to us.
The fact that CAPSTONE is the first spacecraft to test the entrance and sustainability of a truly singular near rectilinear halo orbit, also known as NRHO, is one of NASA’s coolest features.
This NRHO orbit offers a long, stable orbit at a precise balance point between the Earth and Moon’s gravities so that Gateway and subsequent spacecraft need not carry as much fuel to remain in orbit around the Moon.
CAPSTONE contributes to lowering the risk for future spacecraft in this orbit and is leading the way for Gateway. The fact that CAPSTONE is demonstrating an innovative navigation system that will enable future spacecraft to determine their location without relying solely on Earth-based tracking is another really cool aspect of the project.
What then orbits the Moon? In conclusion, yes. There are currently a number of spacecraft orbiting the Moon, and there will undoubtedly be many more, including CAPSTONE, which is part of the Artemis program run by NASA.
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