Japan successfully uses steam to propel Moon spacecraft

By Vishwam Samkara,
Published by yahoo!news, 28 November 2022

Japan’s space agency Jaxa has announced it successfully used steam to propel its spacecraft that was launched as one of the payloads aboard Nasa’s Orion spacecraft.

“This is the world’s first successful orbit control beyond low Earth orbit using a water-fuel propulsion system,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said in a statement.

The Japanese Space Agency confirmed that its water-powered CubeSat EQUilibriUm Lunar-Earth point 6U Spacecraft (EQUULEUS) spacecraft has performed the necessary maneuvers to be in its planned orbit to the second Earth-Moon Lagrange point (EML2) – a position beyond moon .

“As a result of orbital maneuver control and orbit corrections before and after the lunar flyby, the lunar flyby was completed as planned on Nov. 22 JST,” Jaxa said Saturday.

Lagrangian points are places in space where gravity and centrifugal forces are in balance.

The balance of gravitational forces at this point allows the spacecraft to remain in place.

Researchers are particularly interested in EML2 as a possible site for a spaceport for future space exploration.

Extended stays at EML2 beyond the Moon could provide significant radiation shielding for long-duration missions, experts have pointed out.

“Spacecraft departing from EML2 can switch to different orbits, such as Earth orbit, lunar orbit, and interplanetary orbit, with a little bit of orbital control,” Jaxa explained.

EQUILEUS is expected to reach the EML2 Lagrange point in about 1.5 years.

It was designed to demonstrate low energy trajectory control technologies to achieve EML2.

“We hope to test the technology to get to that point with less fuel consumption,” Jaxa had said.

It would study some of the phenomena caused by electromagnetic disturbances in the solar wind and measure the plasma in the Earth-Moon system.

“This was a difficult operation that had to be successful,” said Professor Ryu Funase of the Jaxa Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

“I am proud of the EQUULEUS operations team, which was able to complete the orbital control required for the moon flyby immediately, just one day after the control operation shortly after launch,” said Dr. funase.

The spacecraft will also observe near-earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids, comets and mini-moons, as well as lunar flashes.

It is equipped with an ultra high speed camera, dust sensor and UV telescope.

“I believe we were able to successfully manage this critical operation because of their diligent preparation, including numerous backup plans, and ability to respond flexibly through training. We are now at the starting line of the long journey to the Lagrange point,” added Dr. Add Funase.

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