The American aoerospace manufacturer and small satellite launch service has revealed that it will launch its maiden moon, CAPSTONE mission in the last quarter of this year in New Zealand, which was originally slated to launch in early 2021 from NASA’s Wallops facility in Virginia.
The mission is the first time Rocket Lab will use its Photon spacecraft platform as a trans-lunar injection stage to place a satellite on a trajectory that will take it beyond Earth orbit to the Moon.
The firm said that the CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat will serve as a vanguard for NASA’s Artemis program.
It further stated that it will verify the propulsion needs for a highly elliptical lunar orbit, test spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation systems and show the potential for private support in future missions.
CAPSTONE could serve as redemption for the company.
Rocket Lab has dealt with two prominent rocket failures, and only recently resumed launches following its May incident. A successful Moon launch would both reinforce that return to form and show that Rocket Lab can handle particularly ambitious projects.
Also, a successful mission would help NASA’s future Gateway spacecraft safely approach and orbit the Moon.