November 16, 2004

Yay ESA!

The first European spacecraft sent to the moon has entered lunar orbit, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday.

It has scientific experiments that it will conduct, but possibly the most important part is this:

SMART-1 has also been the test flight for a new solar-electric propulsion technology, a kind of solar-powered thruster that is ten times more efficient than the usual chemical systems employed when traveling in space.

The so-called "ion" engine was tested over a long spiraling trip to the moon of more than 84 million km, a distance comparable to an interplanetary cruise, ESA said.

It does not burn fuel like chemical rockets do but instead converts sunlight into electricity via solar panels and uses it to electrically charge heavy gas atoms, which speed away from the spacecraft and thereby drive it forward.

Bravo, ESA!

Posted by Ted at November 16, 2004 10:12 AM
Category: Space Program
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