The launch of CAPSTONE has been delayed due to final systems checks on the rocket lab booster. The next opportunity is on June 28.

NASA's next mission to the moon is ready to go.

You can watch the live launch of NASA's small CAPSTONE cubesat from New Zealand on the internet. At 6 a.m., the liftoff is. The broadcast begins in the window above at 5 a.m. The sun rises and sets at 0900GMT.

A 55 pound (25 kilogram) cube is the size of a microwave oven and is used to test a halo around the moon.

"It will be launching to deliver the first spacecraft that demonstrates the unique lunar orbit intended for NASA's Gateway," said Chris Baker of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA hopes to return astronauts to the moon in the mid 2020s using a variety of technologies.

No cubesat has gone before NASA's CAPSTONE moon mission.

A new orbit at the moon

The cubesat will be within 1000 miles of the moon's closest point and reach as far out as 67,000 miles. It will help plan for science observations near the moon and high above it by allowing the craft to always face the Earth.

An animated graphic depicting the unique orbit of the CAPSTONE cubesat around the moon.

This Advanced Space graphic shows the highly elliptical near rectilinear halo orbit of NASA's CAPSTONE mission to the moon.  (Image credit: Advanced Space)

Nujoud Merancy, NASA's chief of the exploration, said that the CAPSTONE mission is a good starting point for Gateway and the human landing system. The lunar south pole is one of the things we're interested in for the Artemis campaign.

It will take at least four months to reach the moon and at least six months for it to be tested out. During that time, it will perform a series of navigation and communications tests, some of them with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon for the past four years.

NASA's CAPSTONE moon cubesat with its solar panels unfolded.

NASA's Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) cubesat is seen during assembly with its solar arrays unfurled. The 55-pound cubesat is about the size of a microwave oven. (Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart)

The mission was delayed due to delays associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic and was supposed to be launched in 2021. Advanced Space of Colorado is in charge of the $30 million mission with Terran Orbital building the cubesat.

A deep-space first for Rocket Lab

A Rocket Lab Electron booster on the launch pad with the CAPSTONE mission and purple clouds.

Rocket Lab's Electron booster carrying NASA's CAPSTONE cubesat to the moon stands atop is launch site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula for a June 27, 2022 launch. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

It will be the first deep-space mission for Rocket Lab, and it will mark the beginning of a new era in space exploration. The cubesat will be sent on its way using the company's kick stage.

Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, said May 25 that they are excited to see it on the pad and can't wait to send it to the moon.

CAPSTONE will be used as a dry-run for Rocket Lab's mission to Venus, since they are planning their own.

Beck said that the groundwork was laid for future deep-space missions.

Rocket Lab plans to launch small spacecraft to the moon and beyond using its new Photon satellite platform, Electron rockets and a bulk maneuvering stage. The first Photon vehicle could fly in 2020.

An artist's illustration of Rocket Lab's Photon upper stage on a mission to the moon. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

The months-long trip to the moon for CAPSTONE is a result of using the relatively low-cost, fuel efficient approach with Rocket Lab's Photon, according to NASA officials. About six days into the flight, the cubesat should leave the Photon stage.

Merancy said that the trip would be as short as five days and as long as ten.

While it may take a bit longer to reach the moon than the Artemis astronauts, CAPSTONE will have a small camera to take pictures of what it sees.

Bradley Cheetham, CEO of Advanced Space, said that the camera is not part of the core mission. Wouldn't you go to the moon without a camera? We're excited about that.

On Monday, June 27th at 5 a.m., you can tune in. There will be a chance to watch NASA's CAPSTONE mission launch on a rocket. At 6 a.m., the liftoff is. The sun rises at 1000GMT.

The incorrect date of CAPSTONE's arrival was in the earlier version. The date is not October 15.

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