COLORADO SPRINGS – In addition to testing a unique orbit for NASA’s lunar Gateway, Colorado small business Advanced Space is preparing to demonstrate a new approach for cislunar navigation.
As part of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission, scheduled to launch later this year on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, Advanced Space plans to show how the CAPSTONE cubesat can work with NASA’sLunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to perform peer-to-peer navigation.
Advanced Space was one of three Colorado organizations NASA Administrator Bill Nelson introduced during a press briefing at the 36th Space Symposium with genuine enthusiasm.
Nelson traveled to Colorado many times while serving as a U.S. Senator from Florida. “But I didn’t realize that there were 500 space-related companies right here in Colorado,” Nelson said. “And I didn’t realize that so many important groundbreaking things are taking place right here.”
Boulder-based Advanced Space, the prime contractor for CAPSTONE, will “actually be owning and operating the satellite for NASA,” said Bradley Cheetham, Advanced Space CEO and president.
California-based Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems is constructing the 25-kilogram small satellite with propulsion supplied by another California firm, Stellar Exploration. CAPSTONE plans to embark on its lunar trajectory with a ride on Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft after the Electron launch.
Another Colorado company playing a role in NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program is Golden-based Lunar Outpost, a firm that develops autonomous robots to explore the surface of the moon and Mars.
NASA plans to pay Lunar Outpost $1 if the company succeeds in collecting a small amount of lunar regolith, verifying the collection and transferring ownership to NASA. Nelson gave Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus a 10-cent progress payment during the Aug. 23 briefing.
“This is the first payment in human history on a space resource contract,” Cyrus said. “This sets a legal and procedural framework that will be utilized for generations and decades to come for companies like ours and many others to go out and collect resources from the lunar surface, from other planetary bodies and make them basically useful for humanity.”
Lunar Outpost is preparing to send a small robotic rover to the lunar south pole in 2022 on an Intuitive Machines lander. The mission will have high bandwidth communications between the rover and the lander as well as back to Earth thanks to Nokia LTE 4G technologies, Cyrus said.
BioServe Space Technologies, the third Colorado organization Nelson introduced, is part of the Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
In addition to discussing cancer research BioServe is conducting in the International Space Station’s U.S. National Laboratory, Luis Zea, BioServe implementation project manager, highlighted his organization’s workforce training initiatives.
“We are helping prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists as they are involved not only with payload and hardware development, but with the procedures the crew uses to perform these experiments, with the operations, and with the actually science that we do on the ground and in space,” Zea said.