NASA has launched an environmental test for the propulsion system of a small satellite that would verify the safety of the Moon's cislunar orbit.
The space agency said Tuesday its Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) would study the unique orbit's dynamics to reduce risks of NASA's planned Gateway lunar outpost.
Gateway would operate from the Moon's orbit to support future missions under the Artemis program, which aims to revive manned space exploration. CAPSTONE will also attempt to demonstrate space-to-Earth communications and navigation between spacecraft.
California-based Stellar Exploration designed and developed CAPSTONE's propulsion system with early funds from NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems builds the CAPSTONE CubeSat under the leadership of Colorado-based Advanced Space and the management of NASA’s Launch Services Program.