Washington, 28 Jun (ONA) ---- US space agency NASA today took a small step toward its goal of establishing an orbiting lunar space station this decade with its launch of a moon-bound mini-satellite.
The satellite, which is about the size of a microwave oven, is called CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment).
It blasted off aboard an Electron rocket from a spaceport in New Zealand, NASA said.
CAPSTONEis due to arrive at the moon after four months and then begin a "significantly elongated" orbit that should last six months.
The orbit follows the path the planned Gateway space station will take once it is in operation.
Specifically, the agencysaid in a statement that CAPSTONE will "validate the power and propulsion requirements for maintaining its orbit as predicted by NASA’s models, reducing logistical uncertainties."
The Gateway space station, in which the European Space Agency is also involved, is to serve as an intermediate station for manned missions to the moon - and later possibly also as a station for missions to Mars.