After a successful deployment, the CAPSTONE pathfinder mission to the Moon encountered a hitch when the probe ceased communicating with ground controllers which led amateur satellite observers to suspect something was wrong. To perhaps postpone the satellite's imminent trajectory adjustment maneuver, NASA is attempting to make contact with it once more.

According to Advanced Space, the spacecraft had its solar panels deployed and was charging its batteries before the communications issue. In preparation for a trajectory adjustment maneuver, it has also commissioned its propulsion system.

CAPSTONE, which was launched six days ago, was able to accomplish some maneuvers. To lift the satellite's orbit to a maximum distance of 810,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Earth, the rocket's upper stage, called Photon, fired its engines seven times. Then Photon released CAPSTONE, launching it to the Moon in a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory. The tiny probe will move along a series of gravitational contours on its gravity-driven course, using less fuel in the process to reach the Moon.

But without the assistance of mission control, CAPSTONE is unable to perform these gravitational tricks on its own. According to NASA, the spacecraft has enough fuel to postpone a planned trajectory correction maneuver for several days.

A small space station called the Lunar Gateway, which will enable a long-term human presence on the Moon, is planned. CAPSTONE is intended to test a novel elliptical orbit around the Moon for this station.

This is a component of NASA's planned return to the lunar surface, which is part of the

Artemis Program, which aims to send people back to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years. Despite some remaining concerns following the rocket's wet dress rehearsal, the space agency is also preparing for the maiden launch of the first mission of the lunar program in late August.

Rocket Lab claims that its Lunar Photon vehicle is still in service after launching CAPSTONE onto its lunar trajectory as the CubeSat's engineers attempt to reestablish touch with it.

At a conference, Rocket Lab's CEO, Peter Beck, stated that Lunar Photon is "well and healthy." "We are currently developing a secondary mission for that spacecraft. It felt like too much of a benefit to not take advantage of and do some fun stuff in deep space.

He remarked that it was too early to speculate about what that extended mission may entail but observed that the spacecraft has enough power and additional propellant available. It truly comes down to communications, he said, as Rocket Lab is speaking with Lunar Photon via commercial ground stations rather than the DSN.

For a privately funded Venus mission, Rocket Lab intends to use the same Photon spacecraft, swapping out the CAPSTONE CubeSat for an atmospheric entry probe.