NORTH LOGAN – A deep space radio built by the Utah State University Space Dynamics Lab (SDL) is operating successfully onboard a NASA CubeSat technology demonstration mission to support Gateway, which is a vital component of NASA’s Artemis program.
The radio is aboard the CAPSTONE spacecraft, the first CubeSat to orbit the moon.
Tim Neilsen, SDL’s CAPSTONE program manager, said it is a serious design challenge to build a radio that will work in the extreme temperatures of 1,500 kilometers above the earth.
“We have thermal engineers here at SDL that know how to produce a structure that is able to get all of that heat evenly distributed and moved out of the radio, especially when it gets hot,” Neilsen explained. “Then, of course, we have critical tests that we do.
“We will place any component, including these radios, into a thermal vacuum chamber where we expose it to the vacuum similar to space.”
The CAPSTONE CubeSat now orbiting the moon with SDL’s radio aboard is a pathfinder mission for the Lunar Gateway.
“The Gateway project is a set of assets that NASA intends to place in orbit, in the same orbit, including a space station where astronauts would be able to live and work, much closer to the moon,” added Neilsen. “And this would be similar to the International Space Station, but much, much further away from the earth.”
CAPSTONE reached the moon Nov. 13 and became the first spacecraft to enter into a unique, elongated orbit that will support NASA’s Artemis missions.
Artemis is the first in a series of complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.