NASA has lost contact with a $32.7 million spacecraft bound for the Moon to test the crooked lunar orbit, but agency engineers are hopeful they can fix the problem.
After one successful contact and a second partial contact on Monday, the space agency said it could no longer contact the spacecraft called Capstone. Engineers are trying to find the cause of the loss of communication and hope they can fix it, NASA spokeswoman Sarah Fraser said.
The spacecraft, launched from New Zealand on June 28, spent almost a week in Earth orbit and was successfully launched on its way to the Moon when contact was lost, Fraser said.
The 55-pound microwave-oven-sized satellite will be the first spacecraft to test this oval orbit, where NASA wants to locate its Gateway outpost. The gate will serve as a springboard for the astronauts before their descent to the lunar surface.
The orbit balances the gravity of the Earth and the Moon, therefore requires little maneuvering and thus fuel, and allows the satellite or space station to remain in constant contact with the Earth.