EQUULEUS Spacecraft

Japanese Space Agency JAXA recently announced that it had successfully used steam to propel its EQUULEUS spacecraft, which was one of the 10 CubeSats that were launched as part of the Artemis I mission on the maiden flight of the Space Launch System (SLS).

What is EQUULEUS spacecraft?

  • EQUilibriUm Lunar-Earth point 6U Spacecraft (EQUULEUS) is a nanosatellite of the 6U CubeSat format that will measure the distribution of plasma surrounding the Earth to help scientists understand the region’s radiation environment.
  • It also carries an instrument called DELPHINUS (DEtection camera for Lunar impact PHenomena IN 6U Spacecraft) for observing Lunar impact flashes and near-Earth asteroids from EML2 (second Earth-Moon Lagrange point).
  • The cubesat is expected to reach the EML2 in approximately one-and-a-half years.
  • To reach the ELM2, it made use of an engine called AQUARIUS (AQUA ResIstojet propUlsion System) that uses water as fuel. It uses waste heat from the communication kit to convert the water into steam that is squirted out to produce trust.
  • The use of AQUARIS enabled the EQUULEUS to reach the EML2 at a low cost. It makes future visits to the spot more economical.
  • Using ultra-high-speed camera, a dust sensor and an ultraviolet telescope, the EQUULEUS will be able to observe Near-Earth Objects like asteroids, comets and mini-moons as well as lunar impact flashes.

About EML2

Lagrangian points are spots in outer space where gravity and centrifugal force balance each other. The balance of gravitational force enables spacecraft to remain in a specific place. Researchers are especially interested in the second Earth-Moon Lagrange point (EML2) as the candidate construction site for a deep spaceport for future deep space exploration. Long-term stays at the EML2 will provide effective radiation shielding for long-duration missions. Spacecraft departing from EML2 can reach various orbits like the Earth orbits, Moon orbits and interplanetary orbits using very little orbital control.



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