NASA this week completed a significant step in the Artemis mission that intends to bring astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years.
On Tuesday, NASA launched a miniaturized satellite — known as a CubeSat — called CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) from a launch complex in New Zealand.
Bradley Smith, NASA's director of launch services for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, told Space.com that “the launch was absolutely fantastic.”
The CubeSat will test the stability of the orbit around the moon that NASA wants to use for the Artemis program’s Gateway space station, which will serve as a hub for manned and unmanned missions to the lunar surface.
"The reason we're in this orbit is it's incredibly stable, but also relatively close to the moon," Nujoud Merancy, who heads NASA’s Exploration Mission Planning Office, said in a video that aired during a livestream of the launch.
The launch utilized an electron rocket made by Rocket Lab, which according to the company is one of the smallest rockets ever used to launch a payload into orbit around the moon.
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