UPDATE -- Advanced Space Commemorates One Year Since CAPSTONE Separation

WESTMINSTER, Colo., July 10, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Advanced Space, a leading space tech solutions provider, is celebrating its CAPSTONE mission. It’s been just over a year since the CAPSTONE spacecraft separated from its launch vehicle, beginning its journey of many space “firsts” on the way toward the Moon and meeting its mission objectives. The path to all those firsts was not smooth or easy. Even so, since its launch a year ago, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE™) has become:

  • The first commercial spacecraft operating at the Moon;
  • The first spacecraft to enter and operate in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), the same orbit that will be used by the Gateway space station;
  • The first to demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology: the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS); and
  • A recipient of NASA’s Group Achievement Award.
  • A user of a ballistic lunar transfer to the Moon
  • The furthest commercial satellite to travel from Earth, traveling over 1.5 million kilometers;

CAPSTONE’s Principal Investigator and Advanced Space’s CEO Bradley Cheetham expressed his gratitude to the team: “This has not been an easy road. Our tenacious team members and partners in industry, NASA’s Science and Technology Mission Directorate, NASA Ames Research Center, and the Deep Space Network (DSN) all made important contributions to the mission’s success. That success wouldn’t have been possible without a strong government-industry partnership. As a pathfinder mission, CAPSTONE has demonstrated key capabilities and technologies that will enable future missions.”

Overcoming Communication Problems
On July 4, 2022, after CAPSTONE separated from its launch vehicle, it went silent. As the microwave-sized spacecraft passed 285,000 kilometers from Earth, Advanced Space brought “all hands on deck” to work the communication problem. Two days later, through a combined team effort, the team determined what caused the problem and recovered communications with the spacecraft.

Thruster Problems
Two months later, during or shortly after a trajectory correction maneuver, the spacecraft suffered a thruster anomaly that caused the vehicle’s attitude to change beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to counter it. Working with limited data, once again the teams at the Deep Space Network (DSN), Terran Orbital, and Advanced Space began an around-the-clock work session to address the problem. The mission operations team eventually detumbled CAPSTONE to regain attitude control.

Achievements Since Last Year
Since overcoming these early problems, Advanced Space has been proudest of CAPSTONE’s accomplishments during its primary mission: demonstrating operations in the NRHO and testing the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS). This has been done by combining ground-based measurements of its orbit by the DSN, especially the 21-meter dish at Morehead State University in Kentucky, along with communications with Earth and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). By successfully sending a signal to LRO and receiving it back, CAPSTONE processed measurements computed from the signal to determine the absolute position and velocity of both spacecraft. This sort of shared information can serve a purpose like the Global Positioning System for spacecraft and surface vehicles at the Moon.

As part of CAPSTONE's technology demonstrations, the spacecraft is equipped with a Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) to demonstrate one-way, uplink navigation. The precise timing of the CSAC is used in conjunction with an uplink signal on the ground to compute range and Doppler measurements on the spacecraft as part of our CAPS navigation technology to estimate the spacecraft's state. In the last few weeks, the team has been working to demonstrate this capability and has successfully executed the onboard testing required to demonstrate the one-way navigation technology. In the coming weeks, the team will execute this first one-way demonstration in full.

Looking back on all these accomplishments, Cheetham added, “I couldn’t be prouder of our engineers, our team members, and our spacecraft. They’ve performed heroic work to produce a highly accomplished spacecraft helping lead the way back to the Moon.” For more on CAPSTONE’s adventurous year, click here.


CAPSTONE™ is owned and operated by Advanced Space. It is one of the first CubeSats to fly in cislunar space – the orbital area near and around the Moon – and demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology. The mission launched on June 28, 2022. Critical partners in the CAPSTONE mission include:

  • NASA: CAPSTONE’s development is supported by the Space Technology Mission Directorate via the Small Spacecraft Technology and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. The Artemis Campaign Development Division within NASA's Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate supported the launch and mission operations. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida was responsible for launch management. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory supported the communication, tracking, and telemetry downlink via NASA’s Deep Space Network, Iris radio design and groundbreaking 1-way navigation algorithms. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center managed the CAPS SBIR award.
  • Terran Orbital Corporation: Spacecraft design, development and implementation, hardware manufacturing, assembly, testing and mission operations support.
  • Stellar Exploration: Propulsion subsystem provider.
  • Rocket Lab USA, Inc.: Launch provider for CAPSTONE on a three-stage Electron launch vehicle.
  • Space Dynamics Lab (SDL): Iris radio and navigation firmware provider.
  • Orion Space Solutions (formerly Astra): Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) hardware provider necessary for the 1-way ranging experiment.
  • Tethers Unlimited, Inc.: Cross Link radio provider.
  • Morehead State University (MSU): Operates the newest "affiliated node" on the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN). Providing telemetry, tracking and control services for NASA and commercial space missions and to engage university students in deep space mission operations.

Advanced Space (https://advancedspace.com/) supports the sustainable exploration, development, and settlement of space through software and services that leverage unique subject matter expertise to improve the fundamentals of spaceflight. Advanced Space is dedicated to improving flight dynamics technology development and expedited turn-key missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The team has been honored with the AIAA Small Spacecraft Mission of the Year (2022), Commercial Spaceflight Federation Award, and the NASA Honor Group Achievement Award. Learn more about what Advanced Space is creating; check out details on the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations Navigation Experiment mission page.

Caitlin Davis