The European Space Agency’s space probe SMART-1 was launched on 28 September 2003 from Kourou in French Guiana to study the moon from a polar orbit.

SMART-1. Photo: ESA

SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology) was ESA’s first smart probe in in a venture of small missions for advanced research technology. The Swedish Space Corporation in Solna built SMART-1 and by testing new technology, SMART-1 paved the way for new research projects.

For example, SMART-1 was powered by its solar panels, a solar-powered propulsion system similar to an ion motor. With the ion engine, the probe managed to overcome Earth’s gravity and place itself in orbit around the moon.

IRF in Uppsala had part-responsibility for the SPEDE (Spacecraft Potential, Electron and Dust Experiment) instrument, which consisted of two electrical sensors mounted on the ends of booms on the outside of the spacecraft.

The sensors monitored the effects of solar-powered propulsion on spacecraft. During the cruise phase, the experiment charted the plasma density distribution around the Earth and when SMART-1 was in orbit around the moon, it studied how the solar wind affects the moon.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute, FMI, had the main responsibility for SPEDE.

IRF in Kiruna contributed to the D-CIXS (Demonstration of a Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) instrument. D-CIXS, a sort of X-ray telescope, was able to identify important chemical elements on the lunar surface. The observations helped the scientists confirm theories about the development of the lunar terrain and gave clues to the origin of the moon. The instrument was used as a test for future investigations of the planet Mercury.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Great Britain had the main responsibility for D-CIXS.

The SMART-1 mission came to an end in September 2006 when the spacecraft made a pre-planned and controlled impact with the lunar surface.

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