NASA launches Capstone, the 55-pound cube satellite on the moon

In the past two decades, small satellites known as CubeSats have proliferated, allowing more companies to quickly build spacecraft based on a standardized design, with each cube measuring 10 centimeters or four inches. CAPSTONE is among the largest at 12 cubes in volume, but Advanced Space was able to broadly acquire it from Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems of Irvine, California.

This still requires many problem solving. For example, most CubeSats In low Earth orbit, a few hundred miles above the surface. The moon is almost a quarter of a million miles away.

“No one has ever flown Cupsat on the moon,” said Mr. Cheetham. “So it makes sense that nobody built radios to fly CubeSats to the moon. And so we really had to delve into a lot of those details and actually work with a lot of different people to get the systems that could work.”

Mr. Hartmann, director of the Gateway program, is excited about CAPSTONE but says there is no need to move forward with the lunar outpost. NASA has already awarded contracts to build the first two Gateway units. ESA also contributes to two entities.

“Can we fly without them?” Mr. Hartmann said about CAPSTONE. “Yes. is it mandatory No.”

But he added, “Anytime you can reduce error bars in your models, it’s always a good thing.”

Mr. Cheetham considers what could come next, perhaps more missions to the moon, either for NASA or other commercial partners. He also thinks ahead.

“I’m very intrigued by the idea of ​​how we can do something similar to Mars,” he said. “Personally, I’m also very interested in Venus. I think he doesn’t get enough attention.”