Launch of NASA's CAPSTONE cubesat moon mission delayed again, to June 25

The CAPSTONE cubesat in its halo-shaped lunar orbit.
NASA's CAPSTONE cubesat in its halo-shaped orbit around the moon. (Image credit: NASA/Daniel Rutter)

The launch of NASA's CAPSTONE moon mission has been pushed back again, this time to no earlier than June 25.

NASA and launch provider Rocket Lab had been eyeing yesterday (June 13) as the soonest possible liftoff date for CAPSTONE, which will send a 55-pound (25 kilograms) cubesat to the moon. But the CAPSTONE team has pushed the target date to June 25, NASA officials announced in a brief blog post today (June 14).

That single-sentence update does not give a reason for the delay.

Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)

NASA sees CAPSTONE (short for "Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment") as a key part of its Artemis program of lunar exploration. 

If all goes according to plan, the microwave-oven-sized satellite will settle into a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the moon, a highly elliptical path that will also be occupied by Gateway, the small space station that will serve as a jumping-off point for Artemis astronauts headed to the lunar surface.

No probe has ever occupied a lunar NRHO, so "CAPSTONE will help reduce risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of this halo-shaped orbit," NASA officials wrote in a mission description.

CAPSTONE will do some other work during its pioneering mission as well. For example, the cubesat will perform communications and navigation tests in tandem with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon since 2009.

CAPSTONE will lift off atop a Rocket Lab Electron booster from the company's Launch Complex 1, on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.