Thursday, February 01, 2007

ESA Space Propulsion

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

How SMART-1 has made European space exploration smarter
A unique way to travel to the Moon, new technologies successfully tested and brand-new science: a few months after the end of the SMART-1 mission scientists and engineers gathered to recap on these and all the other achievements of the first European mission to the Moon.

The innovative SMART-1 Moon mission has taught ESA, European space industry and institutes a lot about how to perform its missions even more efficiently. For example, the operational tools developed and the lessons learned are already being used on ESA missions such as Rosetta and Venus Express. The SMART-1 experience has also been used to prepare future ESA missions, such as Bepi-Colombo, which will visit the inner planet Mercury.

Credits: AOES Medialab, ESA 2002.

SMART-1 first orbits the Earth in ever-increasing ellipses. When it reaches the Moon, its orbit is altered by the Moon's gravitational field. It uses a number of these lunar 'gravity assist' manoeuvres to position itself for entering orbit around the Moon.

Using electric propulsion, ESA can send Bepi-Colombo to Mercury in just six years, whereas traditional rockets would take at least seven. Electric propulsion will also be able to transport much more scientific equipment to Mercury than a traditional spacecraft. With SMART-1, we learned how to drive an electric propulsion spacecraft.

Read More ESA Press Release 31/01/2007
Talking with the Planets by Astroprof
Cassini images mammoth cloud engulfing Titan’s North Pole from ESA

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