NASA Awards $14Mln Contract for Tiny Satellite to Test Lunar Gateway Orbit

© NASA handoutArtist rendition of space station in moon orbit (Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, or 'LOP-G')
Artist rendition of space station in moon orbit (Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, or 'LOP-G') - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - NASA has announced its plans to launch a tiny satellite as early as December 2020 to test the elongated orbit planned for the US Lunar Gateway.

"NASA has awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate a CubeSat mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway", the release said.

NASA explained the mission, named CAPSTONE, will demonstrate how to enter into and operate in the orbit as well as test a new navigation capability.

"This information will help reduce logistical uncertainty for Gateway, as NASA and international partners work to ensure astronauts have safe access to the Moon’s surface", the release said.

The highly elliptical, a near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon takes advantage of a precise balance point in the gravities of Earth and the Moon and creates stability that is ideal for long-term missions like Gateway.

The CubeSat will rotate together with the Moon as it orbits Earth and will pass as close as 1,000 miles and as far as 43,500 miles from the lunar surface, the release explained.

The Gateway, which will share the same orbit, will provide an outpost from which astronauts will descend to the lunar surface.

NASA has set a goal of placing humans on the lunar south pole by 2024.

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