NASA CubeSat Aboard Rocket Lab Spaceship Set For 2021 Moon Mission

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NASA is hiring the new batch of astronauts for various missions including the Artemis mission and the future Mars mission. But before that, the space agency will need to explore the various surfaces of the Moon. For this purpose, NASA has selected Rocket Lab to carry the payload to the lunar surface for further lunar exploration.

NASA, Rocket Lab Partner To Launch CubeSat For Artemis Mission

 

NASA CAPSTONE

As part of the new deal, NASA will be sending the payload to the Moon with Rocket Lab. The spacecraft will be carrying CAPSTONE, Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. Additionally, NASA will also be sending the CubeSat into the Moon's orbit in early 2021.

Rocket Lab will be sending an Electron spacecraft to the Moon's orbit. The rocket will lift off from NASA's Wallops facility in Virginia and will carry the Photon platform that will send the CAPSTONE into a trans-lunar injection. NASA notes that the CubeSat will handle only the last stage of the liftoff when it propels itself into a cislunar orbit.

The satellite, which is small in size, weighs 55lbs (roughly 24.9 kgs). It will conduct a navigation demo with NASA LRO, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This orbiter had played a crucial role in helping find the Chandrayaan 2's Vikram Lander, which was concluded to have had a hard landing on the Moon's South Pole.

NASA, Rocket Lab Partner To Launch CubeSat For Artemis Mission

The new satellite is set to be a 'pathfinder' on the lunar surface. The purpose is to help with the Artemis program's Gateway spacecraft to safely approach the Moon.

 

NASA, Rocket Lab Partner

NASA has been pushing space exploration to private firms. The premier space agency has signed deals with private companies like SpaceX and Boeing for building spaceships to take astronauts to space, satellite launches, and more. The new deal with Rocket Lab isn't all that surprising in this scenario.

Rocket Labs has been pioneering rocket launches that are quick and comes with a relatively low budget tag. The present plan to launch the satellite will cost roughly under $10 million. NASA itself is spending $13.7 million to create and run the CAPSTONE. With a successful launch, Rocket Lab and NASA could further enhance their partnership.

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