|1 November 2004|
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Artist's impression of the SMART-1 mission
The European Space Agency's Science Programme encompasses, in addition to the ambitious 'Cornerstone' and medium-sized missions, recently dubbed 'flexi-missions', small relatively low-cost missions. These have been given the generic name SMART - 'Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology'. Their purpose is to test new technologies that will eventually be used on bigger projects.
SMART-1 is the first in this programme. Its primary objective is to flight test Solar Electric Primary Propulsion as the key technology for future Cornerstones in a mission representative of a deep-space one. ESA's projected BepiColombo mission to explore the planet Mercury could be the first to benefit from SMART-1's demonstration of electric propulsion. Another objective is to test new technologies for spacecraft and instruments.
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Credits: ESA 2002. Illustration by Medialab.
Close-up view of SMART-1's stationary plasma thruster
Electrons attracted into the discharge chamber collide with xenon atoms from the propellant gas supply, making charged atoms (ions). Current-carrying coils, inside and outside the doughnut-shaped discharge chamber, sustain a magnetic field oriented like the spokes of a wheel. By the Hall effect, ions and electrons swerving in opposite directions in the magnetic field create an electric field. This expels the xenon ions in a propulsive jet. Other emitted electrons then neutralize the xenon, producing the blue jet.
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Credits: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE-Service Optique CSG
Integration of SMART-1 with the launcher
The SMART-1 spacecraft being integrated with Ariane 5G at Europe's spaceport in French Guiana, 22 September 2003, in preparation for launch aboard Ariana Flight 162, with two fellow passengers.
SMART-1 is the first of a series of ‘Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology’ designed to test key technologies for future spacecraft. It is Europe’s first mission to the Moon.
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Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace - Service optique CSG
SMART-1 lift off
The European Space Agency’s SMART-1 was one of three payloads on Ariane Flight 162. The generic Ariane-5 lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre, Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, at 2014 hrs local time (2314 hrs GMT) on 27 September (01:14 Central European Summer time on 28 September).