“Moon Sniper” leaves near-Earth orbit

The SLIM spacecraft, also known as the Moon Sniper, has successfully left Earth orbit and will soon make its first flyby of the Moon. This is stated in the message of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

SLIM spacecraft (concept). Source: JAXA

The SLIM spacecraft was launched on September 6 as a passing cargo together with the XRISM X-ray telescope. The main task of the probe is to test the technology of an accurate landing on the Moon. It will have to land at a given point near the Shioli crater with an accuracy of 100 meters. Thanks to this, it got its unofficial nickname “moon sniper”.

The SLIM payload consists of several cameras as well as a pair of micro-rovers. One of them will move around the moon by jumping, and the other will be able to change its shape. Both SLIM and micro-rovers are designed to operate on the lunar surface for one local day (14 Earth days).

After the launch, SLIM gradually increased the apogee of its orbit, and also tested the equipment. On September 30, when the spacecraft was at an altitude of 660 km above the South Atlantic Ocean, it performed a critical maneuver. SLIM activated its engines for 39 seconds. The operation was a success, allowing it to leave the vicinity of Earth. Already on October 4, SLIM will make the first close flyby of the Moon.

The Earth photographed by the Japanese SLIM lander. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency published this photo on September 21, 2023. Source: JAXA

The upcoming visit to the Moon will be only the first step towards entering a permanent orbit around it. In order to save fuel, which would still be required for landing, the mission specialists decided to send SLIM along the so-called long route. 

After the flyby of the Moon, SLIM will begin to move away from it, so that in a few months it will return to it again. Next, the spacecraft will perform a series of maneuvers that will allow it to enter lunar orbit. It is expected that this will happen at the end of this year or early next year. In another month or two, SLIM will try to make a soft landing on the moon. If successful, Japan will become the fifth country to achieve such an achievement.

According to https://www.space.com

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