The probe testing an orbital approach for the Artemis Moon program experienced a communication problem within a day of leaving the low Earth orbit, the US space agency said on Tuesday. NASA engineers are hopeful they can fix whatever caused the CAPSTONE probe to lose contact and rescue the mission considered crucial for returning to the Moon.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) probe “experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network,” NASA spokesperson Sarah Frazier said on Tuesday.
The spacecraft team is “working to understand the cause and re-establish contact,” Frazier said, adding that they have “good trajectory data” based on CAPSTONE’s previous contacts with the network. Frazier added that the probe “has enough fuel to delay the initial post separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days,” if necessary.
The $32 million probe that weighs about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) was launched from New Zealand on June 28. The mission seemed to be going well as late as Monday, when CAPSTONE was boosted from the Earth’s orbit and into a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory.