BepiColombo: One Step Closer to Mercury
Since its launch onboard the Ariane 5 rocket in October 2018, from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, BepiColombo has completed its series of commissioned near-Earth activities. These activities were conducted to ensure the health of BepiColombo’s scientific instruments. The operations team, with the support of two ground segments, will now focus on operation and preparation of the mission’s first gravity assist scheduled for 2020.
The Cruise Phase
ESA’s first mission to Mercury comprises two orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). ESA’s Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), which supplies electrical power, will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys – one of Earth, two of Venus and six of Mercury. During its cruise phase, the orbiters will be able to operate some of their instruments to collect scientific data of Venus and Mercury.
BepiColombo 7-year mission was specifically designed to study the composition, geophysics, atmosphere, magnetosphere and history of Mercury. Here are the objectives of the mission:
- Investigate the origin and evolution of a planet close to the parent star
- Study Mercury as a planet: its form, interior structure, geology, composition and craters
- Examine Mercury's vestigial atmosphere (exosphere): its composition and dynamics
- Probe Mercury's magnetized envelope (magnetosphere): its structure and dynamics
- Determine the origin of Mercury's magnetic field
- Investigate polar deposits: their composition and origin
- Perform a test of Einstein's theory of general relativity