BepiColombo is the next European planetary exploration project, and will be implemented in collaboration with Japan. A satellite 'duo' – consisting of an orbiter for planetary investigation and one for magnetospheric studies – will reach Mercury after a six-year journey towards the inner Solar System, to eventually perform the most extensive and detailed study of the planet ever performed so far.
The 'Mercury Planetary Orbiter' (MPO) will be under ESA responsibility, while the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) will be under the responsibility of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), also under ESA responsibility, will provide the electrical and chemical propulsion required to perform the cruise to Mercury. These three modules assembled together for the launch and cruise phase make up a single composite spacecraft.
The MPO will carry a highly sophisticated suite of eleven scientific instruments, ten of which will be provided by Principal Investigators through national funding by ESA Member States and one from Russia.
The MMO will carry five advanced scientific experiments that will also be provided by nationally funded Principal investigators, one European and four from Japan. Significant European contributions are also provided to the Japanese instruments.
After a competitive definition phase started in 2001, ESA is now ready to award Astrium GmbH (Friedrichshafen, Germany) with the prime contract for the BepiColombo implementation phase, consisting of the mission design and of the design, development and integration of the 'cruise-composite' spacecraft. Astrium GmbH will also provide engineering support to the launch campaign and the in-orbit commissioning phase.
Reaching Mercury and placing a spacecraft in a stable orbit around it is a difficult task due to the gravity of the Sun. BepiColombo will reach the planet - visited only by NASA's Mariner 10 in the mid seventies - in a truly novel way.
During the cruise, the mission will make clever use of the gravity of the Moon, Earth, Venus and Mercury itself in combination with the thrust provided by solar-electric propulsion. This innovative combination of low thrust space propulsion and gravity assist has been demonstrated by ESA's technology mission, SMART-1.
When approaching Mercury, the transfer module will be separated and the two-spacecraft composite will use conventional rocket engines and the so-called 'weak stability boundary capture technique' to bring it into polar orbit around the planet. When the MMO orbit is reached, the MPO will separate and lower its altitude by means of chemical propulsion to its operational orbit. Observations from orbit will go on for at least one Earth year.
Operating a spacecraft in the harsh environment of Mercury represents a true technological challenge. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and the direct solar radiation hitting the spacecraft is about ten times more intense than in Earth's proximity.
Furthermore Mercury's surface, whose temperature can reach up to 470°C, not only reflects solar radiation but also emits thermal infrared radiation. Therefore, the probe will have to withstand extreme thermal conditions.
This will be one of the driving factors in the probe's design - for instance, it will drive the design of the multi-layer blanket to insulate the spacecraft and of its heat radiators.
Jan van Casteren | alfa
Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy