Flight to mercury: spacecraft "BepiColombo" sends Signal

23 Octobre, 2018, 16:10 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Flight to mercury: spacecraft

ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO or "Mio").

If you haven't been up to date about the European and Japanese space agencies working together in a project called The BepiColombo Mission, then here's a short article about it on Great Lakes Ledger. Johannes Benkhoff, BepiColombo mission scientist at ESA, said 80 percent of the materials for BepiColombo needed to be specially qualified to ensure they could survive the mission.

The launch was approved on Wednesday (Oct. 17) after a final review of the spacecraft and rocket, which rolled out in preparation for launch yesterday.

A view of the payload fairing, with the French Guiana landscape in the background.

"Mercury doesn't really fit with our theories for how the Solar System formed, and we can't understand our planet fully unless we're able to explain Mercury as well", said Prof Dave Rothery, a Bepi scientist from the UK's Open University. At its closest approach, Mercury is just 77 million kilometers from Earth, or not all that much further than the closest that Earth comes to Mars.

Those days and nights last almost three Earth months each. This maneuver, inspired by the orbital mechanic calculations of Giuseppe Colombo, used the sun's orbit and the gravity of another planet to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft. How much gravity are we talking about?

"The planet is whipped by solar winds", a constant torrent of ionised particles bombarding the surface at 500 kilometres per second, said Bousquet.

BepiColombo is scheduled for a one-year nominal mission at Mercury, with the possibility for a one-year extension. To prevent the spacecraft being dragged into a fiery annihilation, it will attempt to slow itself down via a number of complicated manoeuvres around Venus and Mercury.

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Once BepiColombo blasts off, it will begin the seven-year journey to Mercury.

BepiColombo will fly by Earth in April 2020, twice around Venus in 2020 and 2021, and six times around Mercury between 2021 and 2025.

One of the key ones concerns the object's outsized iron core, which represents 60% of its mass. Science can not yet explain why the planet only has a thin veneer of rocks. NASA's Mariner 10 made three brief fly-bys in the 1970s, and the United States space agency's Messenger orbiter circled the planet between March 2011 and April 2015, when it ran out of fuel and crashed onto Mercury's surface.

Europe's first mission to Mercury, BepiColombo, in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, in French Guiana, at 01:45:28 GMT on October 20.

Enlarge / Some of the main science themes for the BepiColombo mission.

Following a seven-year voyage to reach Mercury's orbit, the spacecraft stack will separate. More than 30 years later, NASA's Messenger did the same, before settling into orbit around Mercury in 2011.

Mercury is an odd terrestrial planet in many ways. More information on the orbiters and their scientific objectives can be found in the mission's press kit. The spacecraft will also have to endure extreme temperatures ranging from -180 degrees to over 450 degrees Celsius, the latter is "hotter than a pizza oven", according to scientists.

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