SMART-1 Launch Date Set

Image credit: ESA

The launch date for the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 spacecraft has been set for early morning of September 28. Earlier this week the spacecraft was attached to the top of an Ariane 5 rocket at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. When it finally does get into space, SMART-1 will use its ion engine to slowly spiral away from the Earth until it gets captured by the gravity of the Moon. Once its in orbit around the Moon, it will map the chemical composition of the surface with greater detail than ever done before. It will also search for evidence of water ice at the Moon’s south pole.

The launch date for ESA’s SMART-1 mission to the Moon is confirmed as during the night of 27-28 September 2003.

The ‘launch window’ will be 8:02 p.m. to 8:21 p.m. on Saturday, 27 September, local time in Kourou, French Guiana, and 1:02 a.m. to 1:21 a.m. on Sunday, 28 September, CEST.

Earlier this week, the SMART-1 spacecraft completed the first 30 metres of its trip to the Moon when it was put on board its Ariane 5 launcher at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

As ESA scientists and engineers watched, the spacecraft looked very small, with its Ariane 5 mounting adapter, when it was raised the 30 metres up to the top of the launcher inside the Final Assembly Building (BAF). Within an hour it was sitting on the rocket’s upper stage.

The spacecraft is pictured here being made ready for flight and having its solar panel array protection removed. The next step is to enclose the spacecraft with the 2.6-metre raising cylinder, which carries the second passenger satellite, E-Bird, on top of SMART-1.

Original Source: ESA News Release