USU making history with a radio entering the lunar orbit

Nov 30, 2022, 11:00 AM | Updated: Jan 5, 2023, 2:44 pm
space radio...
Iris entered the moon's orbit just after 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State University has successfully sent a radio, created by Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory into the orbit of earth’s moon. 

The deep space radio is named Iris, after the Greek mythological goddess, daughter of Thaumas and Electra and messenger of the gods. The radio made its way into the orbit via a CubeSat spacecraft. 

Astronomers call this spacecraft a CAPSTONE. CAPSTONE, according to SDL is the first CubeSat to orbit Earth’s moon

According to a press release from the SDL, CAPSTONE entered a lunar orbit after a “final insertion maneuver” at 5:39 p.m. on Nov. 13. 

The Iris radio sends critical information between the satellite and operators on Earth. SDL said the design and manufacturing created in 2016 by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is what makes Iris different.

Specifically, Iris orbits at altitudes greater than 1,500 kilometers above Earth. Additionally, the CAPSTONE Iris Radio is designed to perform in the extreme temperatures and radiation environment of lunar orbit.

According to Tim Neilsen, SDL’s CAPSTONE program manager, Iris Radio is healthy and operating normally in a precise balancing point between the gravities of Earth and the Moon.

Space radio mission

Despite being about the size of a microwave and only weighing about 55 lbs, a lot is riding on Iris.

Namely, the CAPSTONE is a pathfinder mission for the Lunar Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost. 

“When the west was settled there needed to be outposts along the way so that travelers could make their way to Utah and beyond. Gateway fits into that category,” said Eric Warren with the USU Space Dynamics Lab. “It is setting up the rescores that will be required so that subsequent missions can make their way more easily to the moon.”

Gateway will provide necesary support for astronomers long-term return to the moon and will be a home for deep space exploration.

Additionally, and similar to the International Space Station, NASA is creating a place for astronauts to live and research called HALO, a habitation and logistics outpost. 

“One day… closer to the moon,” Warren started. “Astronauts will have a place to study the long-term, deeper space effects on human astronauts.”

Overall, CAPSTONE’s mission is to reduce risk for future spacecraft. SLD says this will be achievable by “validating new navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of its unique quasi-stable, 3-body orbit.”  

Dale Spaulding contributed to this reporting

Related reading

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Science + Technology

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Cosmic seaplanes and self-growing bricks could help us explore other worlds

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently than ever before.
4 days ago
Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger (left) and Kevin Systrom are pictured here during the 2019 SXSW ...
Jennifer Korn, CNN

Instagram’s founders are back with a new app

The Instagram founders are back with a new app.
7 days ago
FILE - This Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, file photo shows application icons from left, Facebook, Facebook...

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

(CNN) — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms because although sites allow children of that age to join, kids are still “developing their identity.” Meta, Twitter, and a host of other social media giants currently allow 13-year-olds to join their platforms. […]
9 days ago
artificial intelligence banjo...
Curt Gresseth

ChatGPT: Plagiarism super-tool for students or AI brainstorming generator?

Will the future of AI be the interactive chatbot ChatGPT helping cheaters ace exams and tests or a new tool to assist all students in learning?
13 days ago
Curt Gresseth

Banks to launch app to compete with Apple Pay and Venmo

Banks are launching a new app for online money transfers that customers can trust to protect their finances.
14 days ago
Earth core structure. Elements of this image furnished by NASA (Adobe stock)...
Lianne Kolirin, CNN

Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests

With a radius of almost 2,200 miles, Earth's core is about the size of Mars. It consists mostly of iron and nickel, and contains about about one-third of Earth's mass.
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
USU making history with a radio entering the lunar orbit