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Westminster company leads spacecraft into lunar orbit

Advanced Space owns and operates CAPSTONE, which supports NASA’s Artemis program.
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CAPSTONE, a NASA-supported mission, is a small satellite that will be the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit that will support NASA’s Moon missions under Artemis.

A Westminster small business is celebrating a milestone this month — its spacecraft arrived at the moon Nov. 13.

Advanced Space owns and operates CAPSTONE, which is testing the orbit for Gateway, NASA’s moon missions under the Artemis program.

Advanced Space CEO Bradley Cheetham said he’s proud of the contributions that his team — and other Colorado companies — have made to the space industry.

“The Denver metro area is leading the world back to the Moon,” Cheetham said in a statement. “Beyond Advanced Space, many other companies are involved in important efforts. The Coloradans on these teams are at the forefront of the next wave of space exploration and development. We are individuals who live in places like Broomfield, Boulder, Westminster, Louisville, Highlands Ranch, and elsewhere across the front range.” 

Colorado has “one of the most diverse and effective space ecosystems in the world,” Cheetham said. “This is a growing sector and it is growing here in Colorado.”

CAPSTONE is the first privately owned spacecraft to orbit the moon and the first successful launch of the Artemis program, Advanced Space said in a news release.

The team members who created the spacecraft spent more than a decade studying navigation technology in an effort to reduce the reliance on Earth-based tracking, said Dr. Jeffrey Parker, co-founder of Advanced Space.

"Our technology is a breakthrough for how NASA and other customers can navigate in space,” Parker said in a statement. “We are watching how these advancements have enabled a small spacecraft to push space exploration forward. It is so exciting to see all of the hard work pay off.”

The new technology will be essential as space becomes more congested, according to the news release.

Parker is author of the book Low-Energy Lunar Trajectory Design, which details the transfer method CAPSTONE used to get to the moon. The route follows gravitational contours and allows the spacecraft to reach its destination without expending much energy.

Advanced Space also had another accomplishment to celebrate this month — the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded the Westminster small business a $72 million contract to develop an experimental spacecraft for the Oracle program.

“Advanced Space is proud to be selected by AFRL for this critical mission,” Cheetham said in a statement.