EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY,J. HUART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY,J. HUART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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SMART-1 spacecraft ion drive, diagram. SMART-1 is ESA's first lunar spacecraft. It is powered by a new type of engine called an ion drive. This propels the spacecraft on a jet of magnetically- accelerated xenon ions. The ion drive provides only gradual acceleration, but it is so light and efficient that its top speed is far greater than that of a conventional engine. SMART (Small Mission for Advanced Research in Technology) was launched on 27th September 2003. It will reach the moon in December 2004.
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