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1 November 2004
SMART-1 is the first mission in ESA’s Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology programme, hence the SMART acronym. These are missions designed to test key technologies, in preparation for their later use on major scientific missions.

The purpose of SMART-1 is to test a number of key technologies while performing an unprecedented scientific study of the Moon. One of its principal tests is solar-electric propulsion. This is a form of continuous low-thrust engine that uses electricity derived from solar panels to produce a beam of charged particles. This beam can be expelled from the spacecraft, so pushing it forward. Such engines are commonly called ion engines.

SMART-1 is the first European mission to the Moon. Despite a concerted effort by the Americans during the 1960s and early 1970s, which culminated in six successful manned landings, and the more recent Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions, the Moon remains a place of mystery and scientific intrigue.
SMART-1 is special. Not only does it have scientific objectives, it will also perform technological tests, hosted in a spacecraft whose key features are compactness, a light weight and miniaturisation. The instruments on board are testing technologies relevant for future spacecraft and for scientific investigations, while testing also the spacecraft itself, so that engineers and scientists on Earth can understand the effects of the new technologies on the mission.

While cruising from Earth to the Moon, SMART-1:

  • made the first European in-flight test of an ion engine;
  • tested a navigation system that, in the future, will allow spacecraft to autonomously navigate through the Solar System;
  • tested a new way to communicate with Earth using a laser beam and test very high frequency transmissions instead of traditional radio frequencies;
  • constantly monitored the performance of the ion engine.

Now at the Moon, SMART-1 is:

  • investigating the theory that the Moon formed out of the debris of a massive collision between a Mars-sized object and Earth, over 4000 million years ago;
  • studying processes of rocky planet formation, volcanism, tectonics and geochemistry;
  • chronicling the asteroid and comet bombardment of the Earth-Moon system by studying the preserved craters of the Moon;
  • searching for signs of water ice in craters near the Moon’s poles.

SMART-1 data could also be used to select sites for future landing and moon exploration.
SMART-1’s cost is about 110 million Euros. This includes the launch, the spacecraft, the payload and the flight operations.
SMART-1 was launched on 27 September 2003. It hitched a ride into space as a secondary payload on board an Ariane-5, which left Earth from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
SMART-1’s voyage to the Moon was neither quick nor direct. After launch, SMART-1 went into an elliptical orbit around the Earth, typically used by telecommunications satellites. In this orbit the spacecraft fired its ion engine, gradually expanding its elliptical orbit and spiralling out in direction of the Moon’s orbital plane. Month after month, this brought it closer to the Moon, which orbits at between 350 000 and 400 000 kilometres from Earth. As SMART-1 neared the Moon, it began to use the gravity of the Moon to nudge it into a position where it was eventually captured by the Moon’s gravitational field in mid November 2004.

This complicated and slow journey was necessary because ion engines do not provide the instant power that chemical rockets do. However, because they are more efficient and require little fuel, ion engines are more flexible and allow space probes to reach places where chemical rockets would not be able to go. ESA is investing in this technology so that it can mount missions to Mercury and the Sun in the decade beginning 2010.

After being captured by the Moon, SMART-1 looped over the north and south poles, in an elliptical orbit whose height ranges from 300 to 3 000 kilometres. During its scientific mission, it will use the ion engine to gradually lower its highest altitude.
Planned mission lifetime
The cruise phase from Earth to the Moon took around 13 months. The science operations started in January 2005, for nominal mission duration of six months. In February 2005, ESA decided to extend the mission until July 2006.

Mission timeline:

Launch: 27 September 2003
Near Earth commissioning of technology and instruments: until end 2003
Journey to Moon: September 2003 until November 2004
Gravity assist manoeuvres (lunar resonances): 19 August, 15 September and 12 October 2004
Arrival at Moon capture point (begin of first lunar orbit, or first apolune): 13 November 2004
Operational orbit reached: January 2005
Start of lunar commissioning and scientific measurements: January 2005


SMART-1 is a cubic, three-axis stabilised, spacecraft. Its solar panels can rotate so that they always keep in an optimum configuration with the Sun. The design is low-cost and emphasises miniaturisation wherever possible, especially for the payload.


367 kilograms in total, including 19 kilograms of payload.


1 x 1 x 1 metres (excluding solar panels). With solar panels deployed, SMART-1 measures about 14 metres across.

Industrial involvement

The prime contractor is the Swedish Space Corporation, Solna, Sweden. They led a consortium of more than 20 European industrial teams to construct SMART-1. In total, this has involved around 180 people working directly in industry and several hundred more indirectly working on products which have been used in SMART-1. There are also another 170 engineers and scientists involved from ESA and other scientific institutes.

What's on board?
SMART-1 carries the following instruments and experiments:

Electric Propulsion Diagnostic Package - EPDP EPDP is fed by a selection of sensors, mounted on the outside of the spacecraft. It is designed to monitor the ion engine's effects on the spacecraft. Ion-engine technology can cause surface temperatures to rise and create unwanted electric currents on the spacecraft, so it must be carefully watched.

Principal Investigator: Giovanni Noci, Laben Proel, Italy
gnoci @

Scientific co-ordinator: José Gonzales, ESA Electric Propulsion Unit, ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Jose.Gonzalez @

Spacecraft Potential, Electron and Dust Experiment - SPEDE SPEDE consists of two electrical sensors mounted on the ends of 60-centimetre booms fixed to the outside of the spacecraft. They, too, monitor the effects of the solar-electric propulsion on the spacecraft. During SMART-1's cruise phase, the experiment mapped the plasma-density distribution around Earth and, when SMART-1 is in lunar orbit, it will study how the solar wind affects the Moon.

Principal Investigator: Anssi Malkki, Finnish Meteorological Institute Helsinki, Finland
Anssi.Malkki @

The experiment was built jointly by FMI (Helsinki, Finland), ESA/SSD (Noordwijk, The Netherlands), IRFU (Uppsala, Sweden), and KTH (Stockholm, Sweden).

X/Ka-band Telemetry and Telecommand Experiment - KaTE Using very sensitive receivers onboard the spacecraft, KaTE tests new digital radio communications technology. It demonstrates, for the first time on a science mission, the performance of a new higher range of communication frequencies in the X-band (8 GHz) and Ka-band (32/34 GHz). It also tests new data encoding techniques (Turbo code) used to validate the corresponding ground-based infrastructure needed to receive these signals.

Principal investigator: Detlef Heuer, Astrium GmbH, Germany, in association with TTC and Radio Navigation Section, Electrical Department, ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Detlef.Heuer @
Paul.McManamon @

Radio Science Investigation with SMART-1 - RSIS RSIS uses KaTE and AMIE to perform a painstaking investigation into the way the Moon wobbles. This is the first time a spacecraft in orbit has performed such an experiment. It is therefore an essential test for future missions, such as BepiColombo, that will investigate Einstein's Theories of Relativity.

Principal Investigator: Luciano Iess and Giovani Palmerini, University of Rome, Italy in association with TTC and Radio Navigation Section, Electrical Department, ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
iess @, g.palmerini @
Paul.McManamon @

Laser Link experiment Demonstrating the use of a continuous laser beam to point a spacecraft from Earth for future communication purposes. It is the first European test of a laser connection between Earth and a spacecraft travelling at deep space distances. SMART-1 used the AMIE camera to spot the laser beam emitted by the ground station at Tenerife (Canaries Islands, Spain).

Principal Investigator: Zoran Sodnik, Senior Optical Engineer, Optics Section, Mechanical Systems Department, ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Zoran.sodnik @

On-board Autonomous Navigation - OBAN OBAN used AMIE (below) to gather images of celestial objects such as Earth, the Moon, and asteroids, to work out exactly where SMART-1 is in space. This is the first step towards a spacecraft that will be able to navigate for itself.

Principal Investigator: Finn Ankersen, guidance, navigation and control analyst at ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, in cooperation with the European Space Operations Centre (J. Fertig), ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany
Finn.Ankersen @
salvatore.mancuso @

Asteroid-Moon Micro-Imager Experiment - AMIE AMIE is a miniature camera, capable of taking colour images and storing them in a memory. It can perform some automatic image processing. As well as imaging the Moon, AMIE supports the Laser-Link experiment and OBAN and it will assist with RSIS. AMIE's lunar images are used for educational and science communication as well.

Principal Investigator: Jean-Luc Josset, Space-X, Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM) in Neuchatel, Switzerland, leading a team from seven other European industrial or academic establishments.
jean-luc.josset @

Infrared exploration of the lunar surface - SIR SIR will perform a detailed analysis of the Moon's surface composition. It will provide greater insight into the processes of the crater and maria formation and the phenomenon of 'space weathering' on the Moon's surface.

Principal Investigator: Uwe Keller, Max Planck Institute für Aeronomie, Germany. He is leading a consortium including Carl Zeiss, Jena and tec5, Frankfurt, Germany.
Keller @

Demonstration of a Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer - D-CIXS D-CIXS will provide the first global map of the lunar surface's composition. Its observations will allow scientists to confirm theories on the evolution of lunar terrains and will provide clues to the origin of the Moon. This is a test instrument for a similar investigation of Mercury, using ESA's BepiColombo mission.

Principal Investigator: Manuel Grande, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, United Kingdom
m.grande @

X-ray Solar Monitor - XSM XSM will monitor the Sun's output of X-rays so that solar storms do not confuse the results from D-CIXS, and it will observe the Sun as an X-ray star during the cruise.

Principal Investigator: Juhani Huovelin, University of Helsinki Observatory, Finland
huovelin @

Ground control:
European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany. Communication with SMART-1 takes place for eight hours, twice a week, using various ESA network ground stations around the world.

Octavio Camino, SMART-1 Operations Manager
octavio.camino @

Johannes Schoenmaekers, SMART-1 Flight Dynamics Engineer
johannes.schoenmaekers @

Instruments Operations:
Science and Technology Operations Coordination (STOC) at ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Management of receipt, processing, and distribution of SMART-1 data.

Richard Lumb, STOC Manager
richard.lumb @

Emilie Evrard
emilie.evrard @

ESA Project Manager: Giuseppe Racca

ESA Project Scientist: Bernard Foing
bernard.foing @

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