NASA reestablishes communications with its wayward CAPSTONE satellite

It's been a wild few days for NASA's CAPSTONE mission. Following the lunar satellite's successful launch from Rocket Lab's site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, ground control lost contact with the spacecraft shortly after it escaped Earth's gravity well and separated from its Electron rocket carrier on Monday. But after nearly a full day in the dark, NASA announced on Wednesday that its engineers have managed to reopen a line to the 55-pound satellite.

While the situation was concerning, NASA had accounted for just such a possibility. "If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post-separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days," a NASA spokesperson told Space.com on Monday.

Dubbed, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), this spacecraft had spent nearly a week orbiting the planet in order to build up enough momentum to sling it on a four-month, trans-lunar injection (TLI) route over to the moon. Once the CAPSTONE arrives on November 13th, it will follow the planned Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit of the forthcoming Lunar Gateway in order to verify the stability of the path. 

"Specifically, it will validate the power and propulsion requirements for maintaining its orbit as predicted by NASA’s models, reducing logistical uncertainties," NASA described in an April blog post. "The orbit will bring CAPSTONE within 1,000 miles of one lunar pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the other pole at its peak every seven days, requiring less propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moon’s surface than other circular orbits."

The Gateway, once it launches in 2024, will act as a staging platform first for the larger Artemis mission and lunar colonization efforts, then forays further out into the solar system with an eye on eventually settling Mars. NASA plans to follow this launch with that of the Orion spacecraft — it's launch window spanning August 23rd to September 6th — which will evaluate the impacts a trans-lunar trip might have on astronaut physiology.

NASA reestablishes communications with its wayward CAPSTONE satellite

It's been a wild few days for NASA's CAPSTONE mission. Following the lunar satellite's successful launch from Rocket Lab's site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, ground control lost contact with the spacecraft shortly after it escaped Earth's gravity well and separated from its Electron rocket carrier on Monday. But after nearly a full day in the dark, NASA announced on Wednesday that its engineers have managed to reopen a line to the 55-pound satellite.

While the situation was concerning, NASA had accounted for just such a possibility. "If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post-separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days," a NASA spokesperson told Space.com on Monday.

Dubbed, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), this spacecraft had spent nearly a week orbiting the planet in order to build up enough momentum to sling it on a four-month, trans-lunar injection (TLI) route over to the moon. Once the CAPSTONE arrives on November 13th, it will follow the planned Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit of the forthcoming Lunar Gateway in order to verify the stability of the path. 

"Specifically, it will validate the power and propulsion requirements for maintaining its orbit as predicted by NASA’s models, reducing logistical uncertainties," NASA described in an April blog post. "The orbit will bring CAPSTONE within 1,000 miles of one lunar pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the other pole at its peak every seven days, requiring less propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moon’s surface than other circular orbits."

The Gateway, once it launches in 2024, will act as a staging platform first for the larger Artemis mission and lunar colonization efforts, then forays further out into the solar system with an eye on eventually settling Mars. NASA plans to follow this launch with that of the Orion spacecraft — it's launch window spanning August 23rd to September 6th — which will evaluate the impacts a trans-lunar trip might have on astronaut physiology.

NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite has gone dark

NASA has lost contact with CAPSTONE, a tiny satellite that left Earth's orbit on July 4th. CAPSTONE is a cubesat weighing just 55 pounds, and it's headed for the Moon as part of NASA's plan to get humans back on the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years. 

The small satellite stopped communicating with engineers on July 4th shortly after deploying from an Electron rocket bus and exiting Earth's orbit. A NASA spokesperson told Space.com that the team has solid trajectory information for CAPSTONE and handlers are attempting to re-establish contact with the cubesat. 

"If needed, the mission has enough fuel to delay the initial post-separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days," the spokesperson told the site.

CAPSTONE spent six days building up speed in-orbit on a Rocket Lab Electron booster and finally deployed yesterday, on a path to the Moon. The plan is for CAPSTONE to enter a near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon on November 13th, serving as a test for NASA's Artemis mission. With Artemis, NASA plans to install a space station called the Lunar Gateway in the Moon's orbit, serving as a permanent floating base for lunar visitors, complete with living quarters and a laboratory.

NASA plans to kick off its Artemis 1 mission between August 23rd and September 6th with the deployment of an unmanned Orion module, which will orbit the Moon and provide data about how the trip might affect the human body. After that, four astronauts will take off for the lunar satellite. Finally, some time after 2025, NASA plans to put humans on the Moon again.

NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth’s orbit and heads toward the Moon

NASA's grand plan to take humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century has taken another step forward. The 55-pound CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat has broken free of Earth's orbit and is on its way to the Moon.

Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on an Electron rocket from New Zealand last week. Following six days of orbit-raising burns to build up enough speed, the pathfinding satellite set out toward the Moon. It's a relatively slow trip, though. CAPSTONE won't reach the Moon until November.

NASA will try to put CAPSTONE in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, a feat that's never been attempted before. The agency plans to use the same orbit for the Gateway space station, which will provide support for long-term lunar missions under the Artemis program. The outpost will have living quarters for astronauts and a lab. That mission won't launch until at least 2024.

Meanwhile, it emerged last week that NASA has targeted a launch window of between August 23rd and September 6th for the Artemis 1 mission. It will send an uncrewed module around the Moon to assess how the journey might affect the human body. The agency ran a successful wet launch fueling test for Artemis 1 in June.

NASA targets late August to early September launch for Artemis 1 Moon mission

NASA has set an aggressive launch target for its Artemis 1 Moon mission following the successful June 20th “wet dress rehearsal” fueling test of the SLS rocket that will carry the flight to space. In an interview with Ars Technica, Jim Free, associate administrator with the agency’s Explorations Systems Development program, said this week NASA is working toward an August 23rd to September 6th launch window for Aretmis 1. "That's the one we're targeting," Free told the outlet. "We'd be foolish not to target that right now. We made incredible progress last week."

For those keeping track, NASA recently announced the earliest it could get Artemis 1 in space following a successful fueling test of the SLS was between July 26th and August 10th. Instead, NASA selected the second earliest launch window it had open to it.

Before the flight can get underway, technicians must complete final preparations on the SLS rocket, including replacing a seal that led to a hydrogen leak during its June 20th test. NASA began rolling the SLS back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, where staff will work on the launch vehicle, on July 1st. "I don't think we're stretching ourselves to get there,” Free said. “We're probably pushing ourselves a little bit, but we're not going to do something stupid."

Once Artemis 1 is finally underway, it will carry an unmanned Orion module on a trip around the Moon to study how the flight might affect the human body. Artemis II will later take four astronauts to the satellite ahead of a planned lunar landing sometime in the second half of the decade.

NASA targets late August to early September launch for Artemis 1 Moon mission

NASA has set an aggressive launch target for its Artemis 1 Moon mission following the successful June 20th “wet dress rehearsal” fueling test of the SLS rocket that will carry the flight to space. In an interview with Ars Technica, Jim Free, associate administrator with the agency’s Explorations Systems Development program, said this week NASA is working toward an August 23rd to September 6th launch window for Aretmis 1. "That's the one we're targeting," Free told the outlet. "We'd be foolish not to target that right now. We made incredible progress last week."

For those keeping track, NASA recently announced the earliest it could get Artemis 1 in space following a successful fueling test of the SLS was between July 26th and August 10th. Instead, NASA selected the second earliest launch window it had open to it.

Before the flight can get underway, technicians must complete final preparations on the SLS rocket, including replacing a seal that led to a hydrogen leak during its June 20th test. NASA began rolling the SLS back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, where staff will work on the launch vehicle, on July 1st. "I don't think we're stretching ourselves to get there,” Free said. “We're probably pushing ourselves a little bit, but we're not going to do something stupid."

Once Artemis 1 is finally underway, it will carry an unmanned Orion module on a trip around the Moon to study how the flight might affect the human body. Artemis II will later take four astronauts to the satellite ahead of a planned lunar landing sometime in the second half of the decade.

Almost a quarter of the ocean floor is now mapped

Roughly 25 percent (23.4 percent to be exact) of the Earth’s sea floor has been mapped, thanks to an international initiative known as Seabed 2030. Relying largely on voluntary contributions of bathymetric data (or ocean topography) by governments, companies and research institutions, the project is part of a larger UN-led initiative called The Ocean Decade. Seabed 2030 hopes to map 100 percent of the ocean floor by 2030, which researchers say will be possible thanks to advances in technology and corralling already available data. Over the past year alone, Seabed 2030 has added measurements for around 3.8 million square miles (roughly the size of Europe) primarily through newly opened archives, rather than active mapping efforts.

Scientists believe collecting more bathymetric data will help further our understanding of climate change and ocean preservation efforts. Ocean floor mapping also helps in the detection of tsunamis and other natural disasters. “A complete map of the ocean floor is the missing tool that will enable us to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, including climate change and marine pollution. It will enable us to safeguard the planet’s future,” said Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation in a press release

As the BBC notes, much of the data used in Seabed 2030 already existed. The group largely relies on contributions from governments and companies, though some of these entities are still reluctant to completely open up their archives for fear of spilling national or trade secrets. 

All the data that Seabed 2030 is collecting will be available to the public online on the GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) global grid. Prior to Seabed 2030, very little directly measured ocean floor data was available for public use. Most bathymetric measurements are estimated using satellite altimeter readings, which give a very rough idea of the shape of the sea floor surface. Some scientists believe a global effort to locate the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 would have been better informed by newer, more precise methods to chart the ocean floor.

Almost a quarter of the ocean floor is now mapped

Roughly 25 percent (23.4 percent to be exact) of the Earth’s sea floor has been mapped, thanks to an international initiative known as Seabed 2030. Relying largely on voluntary contributions of bathymetric data (or ocean topography) by governments, companies and research institutions, the project is part of a larger UN-led initiative called The Ocean Decade. Seabed 2030 hopes to map 100 percent of the ocean floor by 2030, which researchers say will be possible thanks to advances in technology and corralling already available data. Over the past year alone, Seabed 2030 has added measurements for around 3.8 million square miles (roughly the size of Europe) primarily through newly opened archives, rather than active mapping efforts.

Scientists believe collecting more bathymetric data will help further our understanding of climate change and ocean preservation efforts. Ocean floor mapping also helps in the detection of tsunamis and other natural disasters. “A complete map of the ocean floor is the missing tool that will enable us to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, including climate change and marine pollution. It will enable us to safeguard the planet’s future,” said Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation in a press release

As the BBC notes, much of the data used in Seabed 2030 already existed. The group largely relies on contributions from governments and companies, though some of these entities are still reluctant to completely open up their archives for fear of spilling national or trade secrets. 

All the data that Seabed 2030 is collecting will be available to the public online on the GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) global grid. Prior to Seabed 2030, very little directly measured ocean floor data was available for public use. Most bathymetric measurements are estimated using satellite altimeter readings, which give a very rough idea of the shape of the sea floor surface. Some scientists believe a global effort to locate the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 would have been better informed by newer, more precise methods to chart the ocean floor.

Otrivin Air Lab turns CO2 and air pollution into beautiful 3D printed products

CO2 or carbon dioxide is often portrayed as the villain, at least for humans and animals, but it is an essential part of the circle of life. Plants need it to live, and these same plants produce oxygen that we, in turn, need. Air pollution, on the other hand, isn’t so beneficial, and the global state of the environment means there’s an overabundance of unclean air and CO2. The first solution that would probably come to most people’s minds is inventing technology that would magically purify the air. But what if we could actually turn the tables around and use these harmful elements for something good? That’s the idea and process being exposed in a living showroom and bio-design workshop that practically turns air pollution into sustainable products.

Designer: Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto (ecoLogicStudio)

Air purifiers have become trendy these days, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic nearly crippled the world. These devices, however, might be good for humans or even pets, but they have a negative impact on the environment in the long run, particularly because of their carbon footprint. Mother Nature, however, already has its own tiny air purifiers, and not only can we use them to clean the air, but we can also even harvest them to create products that won’t harm the planet in turn.

That’s the proposition that the Otrivin Air Lab interactive exhibit in Londo is trying to present, and it’s roping in visitors not only to observe the process but to actively take part in it. The space is enclosed in a lightweight and reversible timber structure, and one of the walls holds twelve “photobioreactors.” These are tall glass vessels filled with ten liters of living photosynthetic microalgae that absorb CO2 and release oxygen while also producing biomass in the process. Each day, that wall can take in 240g of CO2 and spit out 180g of oxygen as well as 84g of biomass.

Visitors to the lab can take part in the daily harvesting of that biomass product that is then turned into bioplastics, bio-rubbers, and 3D printing filaments. These raw materials can then be used to create biodegradable and sustainable products, like vases and even stools. Some might find it a bit unsettling, but the fact that you are sitting on what is practically CO2 and air pollution should feel empowering. We might not be able to completely eradicate unclean air, but we can at least turn them into something harmless and useful.

The lab is intended to showcase the viability and sustainability of a circular economy, turning air waste into a sellable product that will eventually find its way back to the Earth in a clean and safe manner. And to take it full circle, nasal healthcare company Otrivin, who collaborated on this exhibit, will be using this process to create its Fibonacci NetiPot nasal sprays. Each NetiPot supposedly removes 15g of carbon dioxide from the air, driving home the importance of clean air using a product design to help people breathe better.

The post Otrivin Air Lab turns CO2 and air pollution into beautiful 3D printed products first appeared on Yanko Design.

NASA takes a step towards putting humans back on the Moon with CAPSTONE launch

Rocket Lab has successfully launched NASA's 55-pound CAPSTONE cubesat that will eventually orbit the Moon if all goes to plan. It's a small but important step in NASA's Artemis mission that aims to send humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. 

The launch proceeded nominally according to NASA's broadcast, reaching low-Earth orbit at about 'T' plus 10 minutes. An Electron launch is much like any other, except that it's the first rocket to be electrically powered by batteries rather than a gas turbine. As such, there's a phase called "battery ejection" which happens near the end of the launch cycle. 

Rocket Lab used an Electron rocket with a special addition called the Lunar Photon upper stage with enough power to send it into deep space. It's one of the smallest rockets to attempt to launch a payload to lunar orbit, the company said. It launched from Rocket Lab's site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, and is "the highest mass and the highest performance Electron has ever had to fly by quite some margin," the company told TechCrunch earlier. 

CAPSTONE will orbit Earth for nine days to build up enough speed for a trans lunar injection (TLI) that will allow it to eventually orbit the Moon. The primary objective is to verify a type of highly elliptical lunar orbit called "near rectilinear halo" that's planned for the Gateway space station. Gateway will eventually be delivered to lunar orbit by SpaceX with a science lab and living quarters for astronauts, along with ports for future spacecraft. 

Rocket Lab was supposed to launch CAPSTONE yesterday but delayed it until today "to perform final system checks," NASA tweeted. Regardless of the launch date, it's scheduled to arrive at the moon on November 13th. To see a replay of the livecast, check here