- Press Release
- August 9, 2022
A Smart Way to Study the Moon
Europe’s first mission to the Moon will soon be under way, and UK scientists
are looking forward to unravelling some of the secrets of our neighbouring
SMART-1 – the European Space Agency’s first Small Mission for Advanced
Research in Technology -is now expected to lift off from Kourou, French Guiana, just
after midnight on Sunday, 28 September.
Although it is primarily intended to demonstrate innovative technologies such
as solar-electric (ion) propulsion and autonomous navigation, SMART-1 also
carries a number of scientific experiments that will provide new insights into
some of the unanswered questions about our nearest celestial neighbour.
On arrival in lunar orbit (expected to be in January 2005), these instruments
will search for signs of water ice in permanently shaded craters near the
Moon’s poles, provide data on the still uncertain origin of the Moon, and
reconstruct its evolution by mapping the surface distribution of minerals
and key chemical elements.
The main UK contribution is a compact X-ray spectrometer known as D-CIXS
(pronounced dee-kicks), which has been developed by Principal Investigator,
Professor Manuel Grande, and his team at CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
D-CIXS will help to determine the elements that make up the lunar surface
and so provide important information about how the Moon was formed.
“Despite decades of research, we have never fully discovered what the Moon is
made of,” said Professor Grande. “The Apollo missions only explored the
equatorial regions on the Earth-facing side of the Moon, while other spacecraft
only investigated surface colour or searched for water and heavy elements.
D-CIXS will provide the first global X-ray map of the elements that make up the
“X-rays from the Sun cause atoms in the lunar surface to fluoresce – rather
like the gas in the fluorescent tubes that light our offices and homes – so
that they emit X-rays of their own. D-CIXS will measure the Moon’s composition
by detecting these X-rays coming from the lunar surface. The precise energy
carried by each X-ray tells us the element that is emitting it.
“This information will provide us with vital clues to help us understand the
origins of our Moon.”
In order to create an instrument that is the size of a toaster and weighs
just 4.5 kilograms, the D-CIXS team had to miniaturise the components and
new technology such as novel X-ray detectors – based on new swept charge
devices (similar to the charged couple devices found in digital cameras) and
microfabricated collimators with walls no thicker than a human hair.
Other UK institutions involved in D-CIXS are:- University of Sheffield, Queen
Mary University of London, Natural History Museum, Armagh Observatory,
University College London, Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the
University of Manchester.
Dr. Sarah Dunkin of CCLRC-RAL and University College London is also a
Co-Investigator on the SMART-1 Infrared Spectrometer (SIR), which will
search for ice
and produce a global map of lunar minerals.
The main UK industrial involvement is by SEA Group Ltd, who helped to develop
the Ka-band Telemetry and Telecommand Experiment (KaTE) which will test more
efficient communication techniques for deep space missions.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
SMART-1 will be launched from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Lift-off is currently scheduled for the night of September 27-28, 2003 during
the following launch window:
8:02 p.m. to 8:21 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, local time in Kourou.
00:02 a.m. to 00:21 a.m. UK time on Sunday, September 28.
CCLRC-RAL will be hosting an event with a live feed of the launch, with
members of the team available on the night for comment. SMART-1 launch
available by phone at +44 (0)1235-446433. Live coverage of the launch will be
web streamed at http://www.sstd.rl.ac.uk/launches/
SMART-1 will share the Ariane 5 launcher with two commercial payloads:- the
Indian Space Research Organisation’s Insat 3 E and Eutelsat’s e-bird
communication satellites. The smallest spacecraft in the trio, SMART-1,
will travel in
the lower position, inside a cylindrical adapter, and will be the last to be
SMART-1 is an example of a ‘faster, better, cheaper’ mission. It has been
developed in less than four years for a cost of only 110 million euros,
the launch, operations and a dozen scientific experiments. This is about one
fifth of the cost of a major ESA science mission.
The spacecraft will be powered only by an ion engine, which Europe will be
testing for the first time as the main spacecraft propulsion. This engine uses
electrical power produced by the solar panels to accelerate ions (charged
particles) of xenon gas. Since the engine will generate a very gentle thrust,
equivalent to the weight of a postcard, SMART-1 will be accelerated just 0.2
millimetres per second per second. However, it should be able to push the
through space for many months, much longer than traditional engines using
The mission will also test miniaturised spacecraft equipment and instruments,
an autonomous navigation system, and a laser communication link between the
Earth and the spacecraft.
SMART 1 will take about 15 months to reach the Moon, depending on the launch
date and the amount of thrust generated by the novel ion engine. The final
science operations will take place from a polar orbit, ranging from 300
kilometres to 10,000 kilometres above the Moon. This elliptical orbit may
circularised if there is enough fuel for an extended mission.
The mission to map the Moon’s surface and evaluate the new onboard
technologies is expected to last for a minimum of two years, including
at least 6 months in lunar orbit.
SMART-1’s launch mass is 370 kilograms, with a scientific payload of 15 kg.
The spacecraft platform measures 1 cubic metre. Power is generated by solar
panels measuring 14 metres across.
D-CIXS SCIENCE TEAM CONTACTS:
Professor Manuel Grande (Principal Investigator)
CCLRC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, OXON
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446501. Mobile: +44 (0)7770-652547
Dr. Sarah Dunkin (Project scientist and a Co-Investigator on the SIR
CCLRC, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory/University College London
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446861. Email: S.K.Dunkin@rl.ac.uk
Dr. Hugo Alleyne
University of Sheffield
Tel: +44 (0)114-2223504. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor David Hughes
University of Sheffield Tel: +44 (0)114-2224288. Email:
Professor Carl Murray
Queen Mary, University of London
Tel: +44 (0)20 -882-5456. Email: email@example.com
Dr. Monica Grady
Natural History Museum, London
Tel: +44 (0)207-942-5709. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Sara Russell
Natural History Museum, London
Tel: +44 (0)207-942-5074. Email: email@example.com
Dr. Apostolis Christou
Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland
Tel: +44 (0)2837-522928. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor John Guest
University College London
Tel: +44 (0)207-679-2134. Email: email@example.com
Dr Chris Owen
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
Tel: +44 (0)1483 204281. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Ian Crawford
Birkbeck College, University College London
Tel: +44 (0)207-679-3431. Email: email@example.com
UK industrial involvement (KaTE instrument)
Nigel Towers, SEA Ltd, Beckington, Somerset
Tel: +44 (0)1373 852000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacky Hutchinson, CCLRC Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446482 Mobile: +44 (0)77755-85811
IMAGES AND FURTHER INFORMATION:
SMART-1 (ESA): http://www/esa.int/smart1 and
D-CIXS (RAL): http://www.sstd.rl.ac.uk/SMART-1/index.htm