Monday, March 5, 2012

Astrium tests ESA lunar lander thrusters

The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing MoonNEXT,
a lunar lander mission to the Moon's south pole set for 2018 [ESA].
Europe’s ambition of touching down at the Moon’s south pole by 2018 has been boosted by recent test firings of the craft’s thrusters. The robot lander will prove new techniques for sending humans to the Moon and assess lunar hazards. One of these thrusters was recently put through its paces at Astrium’s specialized facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany.

The test chamber was configured to reproduce the vacuum and temperatures that Lunar Lander will face on its way down to the Moon’s surface. A complete descent and touchdown was simulated, with the thruster firing in a series of short bursts, reaching a white-hot 1100ºC.

According to ESA’s Bérengère Houdou, the results are positive: “The thruster operations were smooth and stable, with great performance, even under the stress of a lunar lander’s operating conditions.”

To save the cost of developing a new engine, ESA engineers looked to the tried-and-tested thrusters of Europe’s proven Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) space ferry.

Related video HERE. - ESA press release HERE.

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