SMART-1, Europe’s first mission to the Moon

The Mission

The main mission objective of SMART-1 was the flight demonstration of electric propulsion for deep space missions, an objective that was successfully achieved with the spectacular capture into lunar orbit on November 15, 2004.

Design drivers for the spacecraft included the high power needed for the electric propulsion, the severe radiation environment encountered during the slow Earth escape trajectory and the need for onboard autonomy. SMART-1 made a 100-day travel through the radiation belts, during which the spacecraft encountered periods of exceptional solar activity in October/November 2003. Minor radiation effects were indeed encountered on the electrical propulsion system, the main computer and the star trackers, all of which were readily overcome.

From the end of September, 2005, Smart-1 was left in a natural orbit determined by lunar gravity and the perturbations by Earth and the Sun. As planned, Smart-1 impacted the moon´s surface in the so called Lake Excellence area on the Moon´s front side in September. The impact is estimated to have caused a three to ten meter crater in diameter. The crash site was predicted with high precision by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) and the impact could be imaged in real-time by the 3.5 m Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope IR-telescope in Hawaii.

OHB Sweden contributions

SMART-1, Europe’s first Moon probe was developed by OHB Sweden (then part of the Swedish Space Corporation).

This sophisticated lunar probe of brand-new design was developed in only 39 months. OHB Sweden’s project team that managed and carried out the development of the spacecraft and several of its subsystems consisted at a maximum of 75 persons including consultants for specific development tasks. In addition to the Prime Contractor task, OHB Sweden was responsible also for the system engineering, the development of the onboard system unit based on the CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol, the star tracker based attitude control system, onboard applications software, spacecraft simulator and Electrical Ground Support Equipment.


The mission was financed by the European Space Agency (ESA). SMART-1 was the first of ESA’s Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology with the purpose to test new technologies to be used in larger ESA science projects.

Launch date

SMART-1 was launched by an Ariane-5 rocket on 27 September 2003 and reached an orbit around the Moon in mid November 2004.