Motore principale di Venus Express testato con successo

ESA News

17 February 2006

Successful Venus Express main engine test

One hundred days after beginning its cruise to Venus, ESA’s Venus Express
spacecraft successfully tested its main engine for the first time in

The main engine test is a critical step in the mission. In fact, it is due
to its powerful thrust that Venus Express will be able to ‘brake’ on
arrival at Venus. The spacecraft must slow down in order to be captured in
orbit around the planet.

The engine was fired during the night of 16/17 February, starting at 01:27
CET (00:27 UT) and the ‘burn’ lasted for about three seconds. Thanks to
this engine burn, the spacecraft changed its velocity by almost three
metres per second.

About one hour later, the data received from the spacecraft by the Venus
Express ground control team (via ESA’s New Norcia antenna in Australia)
revealed that the test was successful.

The engine performed as expected. The spacecraft reacted correctly to the
push and was able to recover the control of its attitude and to correctly
point its high-gain antenna back to Earth to communicate with ground

All data recorded during the burn will now be carefully analysed by
Astrium (who built the spacecraft) and ESA’s engineers to study the
performance of the engine in detail.

The next big milestone is the Venus Orbit Insertion manoeuvre on 11 April
2006, which will require the main engine firing sequence to operate for
about 51 minutes in the opposite direction to the spacecraft motion. This
braking will allow the spacecraft to counteract the pull of the Sun and
Venus, and to start orbiting the planet.

Venus Express is currently at a distance of about 47 million kilometres
from Earth.

For more information:

Don McCoy, ESA Venus Express Project Manager
E-mail: Don.McCoy @

Philippe Sivac, ESA Venus Express Principal System AIV Engineer
E-mail: Philippe.Sivac @

Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Venus Express Spacecraft Operations Manager
E-mail: Andrea.accomazzo @

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[Image 1:]
An artist’s impression of the first firing test of the Venus Express
spacecraft main engine, being performed in space during the night of 16/17
February 2006. The burn started at 01:27 CET and lasted about three

Credits: ESA

[Image 2:]
Detailed view of the Venus Express spacecraft main engine, integrated on
the spacecraft.

Credits: ESA

Bene bene… :roll_eyes: