SMART-1s revolutionary propulsion system was successfully fired at 12:25 UT on 30 September, 2003, in orbit around the Earth.
Engineers at ESOC, the European Space Agencys control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, sent a command to begin the firing test, which lasted for one hour. This was similar to a trial performed on Earth before SMART-1 was launched.
Several months ago, the ion engine, or Solar Electric Primary Propulsion (SEPP) system, had been placed in a vacuum chamber on the ground and its functions and operation were measured. Now in space and in a true vacuum, the ion engine actually worked better than in the test on ground and has nudged SMART-1 a little closer to the Moon.
This is the first time that Europe flies an electric primary propulsion in space, and also the first European use of this particular type of ion engine, called a Hall-effect thruster.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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