European SMART-1 Lunar Orbiter Unveiled

Yesterday the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology) was publically displayed. Weighing just 815 pounds, costing $108 million and to be launched in July for a two-year mission orbiting the moon to look for water, SMART-1 will be the first European spacecraft to travel to and orbit the Moon. One of the craft’s primary objectives is the flight demonstration of Electric Primary Propulsion for a scientific lunar orbiting spacecraft delivered into a standard geostationary transfer orbit. SMART-1 will reach lunar orbit from geostationary transfer orbit by the use of electric propulsion. The transfer time will be in the order of 15-17 months. Once there, the satellite will use infrared light to search for water. The mission will also use X-rays to map the chemical composition of the entire lunar surface. The spacecraft will also explore the darker regions of the Moon’s south pole for the first time and take a close look at the ‘Peak of Eternal Light’, a lunar mountain perpetually bathed in sunlight and surrounded by craters never touched by light. The craters may contain ice.

One thought on “European SMART-1 Lunar Orbiter Unveiled”

  1. Like a lot of other missions lately, SMART-1 seems to have suffered from delay after delay, so it’s great to see it finally close to launch! Interesting to me is the relatively small size of these latest lunar vehicles – the TransOrbital craft is supposed to be only 100 kg (220 lbs), not counting the solid-fuel trans-lunar-injection rocket (a piece that SMART-1 avoids through its ion engine). TO’s TrailBlazer is supposed to reach the Moon in October this year, so both spacecraft should be orbiting about the same time. The new pictures will be great – these are the first lunar missions since confirmation of lunar polar ice by Lunar Prospector in 1998.

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