NASA lost contact with one of its satellites following the breakup of Earth's orbit while it was on its way to the Moon.

On Tuesday, the tiny CubeSat lost communication with NASA's Deep Space Network. DSN is NASA's radio antenna network, which supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and some orbiting Earth missions.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment are called the CubeSat, also known under CAPSTONE.

According to a NASA statement, the CAPSTONE team is trying to re-establish contact with the spacecraft and understand what caused it to malfunction. 

The agency released solid trajectory data from the Deep Space Network's first and second ground station passes and said they have the information.

The agency stated, "If necessary, the mission has enough fuel for the initial post separation trajectory correction manoeuvre to be delayed for several days."

Exiting the Earth's orbit

The satellite was able to leave Earth's orbit as planned on Monday, marking an important milestone in its four-month journey toward the moon.

For the rest of the trip, it will rely on the sun's gravity and its own propulsion. CubeSat will use much less fuel to reach its destination because of gravity.

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket launched the mission from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on June 28.

CubeSats' goal is to reach an elongated orbit around the moon, a nearly rectilinear orbit, for at least six months for research purposes.

The satellite's orbit will place it within 1,000 miles (1 609.3 kilometres) of the closest lunar pole and within 43 500 miles (70,006.5 km) of the other pole every seven days.

The team is hopeful that the satellite will be able to maintain its orbit. This could allow the agency to launch and place a Gateway outpost in lunar orbit. 

It will be a key part of their Artemis program, providing future spacecraft with an efficient route to the moon's surface.

The small satellite will also be used to test its communication capabilities. The orbit provides a view of Earth and coverage for the lunar south pole. This is the landing spot for Artemis astronauts in 2025.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbit will be able to communicate with the CubeSat. It has been orbiting the moon for 13 years. 

It will serve as a reference point to the satellite, allowing scientists to determine the distance between them and the location of CAPSTONE in the sky.