Advanced Space Announces Successful Completion of 6-Month CAPSTONE Primary Mission for NASA

Team moves to Enhanced Mission to continue pathfinding technology for lunar operations, navigation and communication at the Moon

Westminster, Colorado, May 18, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Advanced Space, a leading space tech solutions company, is pleased to announce the successful completion of the six-month Primary Mission for CAPSTONE, the first commercial satellite to operate at the Moon. The CAPSTONE mission’s objective is to pioneer a new and challenging lunar orbit - the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) - to help inform future operations for the Gateway lunar space station that will support NASA's Artemis missions. CAPSTONE has operated in the NRHO for six months, following its second correction maneuver after orbit insertion.

Since entering the NRHO six months ago, the CAPSTONE mission has achieved many accomplishments, including:

  • 28 successful orbits
  • 7 maneuvers
  • 89 published orbit determination navigation solutions
  • Collected more than 315,000 measurements from the Deep Space Network including the site at Morehead State University. CAPSTONE was the first mission to use Morehead State University - this capacity added to DSN was critical to support the mission.
  • Endured 6 lunar eclipses with a maximum duration of 74.32 minutes
  • As designed, zero Earth eclipses

CrossLink Communications

In addition to the milestones and objectives outlined above, Advanced Space also announced the successful demonstration of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS) which collected crosslink measurements between CAPSTONE and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on May 9th. This milestone was met after two years of collaboration between Advanced Space and the LRO Team.

“We’re extremely proud that the CAPSTONE mission has reached its primary mission milestone. Navigating to the Moon and in the NRHO has presented a lot of challenges that the mission teams at Advanced Space and Terran Orbital have had to overcome,” said Alec Forsman, Mission Operations Manager for CAPSTONE at Advanced Space. “We’ve been able to share valuable insights with NASA who continues to be supportive and instrumental in our success. Seeing the CAPS technology successfully executed is also an incredible achievement for the team and is the culmination of nearly 6 years of hard work at Advanced Space. We thank LRO for their support as we'll continue to perform and learn from these demonstrations.”

During this demonstration, the CAPSTONE spacecraft sent a specialized signal to LRO which returned the signal and allowed CAPSTONE to calculate range and Doppler measurements. This was a primary objective for the mission which sought to showcase Advanced Space’s autonomous onboard navigation solution, CAPS. Using the gathered data, the team will look to improve subsequent crosslink demonstrations and continue to work towards demonstrating operational feasibility. In the future, additional data types will be demonstrated and incorporated into CAPS to deliver navigation knowledge to users in orbit and on the surface of the Moon.

"As the first U.S. commercial mission to the Moon and the first spacecraft to operate in this unique orbit, CAPSTONE is helping inform future lunar exploration operations for the Artemis program," said Christopher Baker, program executive for the Small Spacecraft Technology program in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "Importantly, the mission also is pushing the boundaries of what we can do with small spacecraft and how new technologies and commercial capabilities can support missions to the Moon and beyond."

Lunar Imagery

As an addition to the mission objectives, the CAPSTONE spacecraft was designed with an imager on board. This imager was included to support technology demonstration as well as public awareness objectives. As part of the Primary Mission, the Advanced Space team was able to capture the attached image of the lunar surface on the 3rd of May 2023 at 15:11 UTC. At this time, the spacecraft was near its perilune—the spacecraft’s closest approach to the Moon—which occurs approximately above the Moon’s North pole. The center of this image is approximately located at 25° N, 85° E on the lunar surface.

Upcoming Milestones

While the Primary Mission saw several significant milestones, the CAPSTONE mission is not complete. The mission team, led by Advanced Space, is now planning and preparing to execute the "Enhanced Mission" phase which will see the CAPSTONE spacecraft remain in the NRHO for up to 12 months, continuing to demonstrate critical technologies that will support future missions to the Moon.

Continued operations are planned during the Enhanced Mission phase with specific emphasis on further demonstrating additional collections for crosslink measurements and one-way uplink measurements from the Earth. The Enhanced Mission will also emphasize increasing efficiency and automation by the flight dynamics system as a precursor to multi-mission support in the future. Extended mission plans will be considered beyond this next mission phase if the spacecraft continues to weather the conditions posed by the lunar radiation and thermal environments.

“We are very grateful to NASA, our mission partners and everyone who has supported us through this journey,” said Advanced Space CEO and President Bradley Cheetham. “The development of CAPS started as an SBIR back in 2017 and has now evolved into a significant historical development in space exploration. We look forward to ongoing operations of the spacecraft at the Moon and future missions it will support”.


CAPSTONE™ is owned and operated by Advanced Space. It was the first CubeSat 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 awarded 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 ( 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.