European-Japanese mission to investigate the smallest planet in the Solar System

phys.org | 10/22/2018 | Staff
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The European-Japanese planetary mission BepiColombo lifted off from the European spaceport in French Guiana at 03:45 Central European Summer time on 20 October 2018 (22:45 on 19 October local time), on board an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. "Not only is the mission designed to investigate the planet Mercury, it will also deliver new insights into the Solar System," explains Walther Pelzer, Executive Board Member for the Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). "Once again, by rising to this immense challenge, Japan is proving to be a dependable aerospace partner for Europe." The spacecraft's cosmic journey through the inner Solar System will last approximately seven years.

BepiColombo is the most comprehensive European project to explore a planet in the Solar System to date. The mission consists of two orbiters that will circle Mercury – the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). While MPO is designed to investigate the surface and composition of the planet, MMO will analyse its magnetosphere. Other mission objectives include investigating the solar wind, the inner structure and the planetary environment of Mercury, as well as its interaction with the environment nearest to the Sun. The scientists hope that this will also deliver new insights into the formation of the Solar System.

Voyage - Orbiters - Board - Mercury - Composite

During the voyage, both orbiters will travel on board the Mercury Composite Spacecraft (MCS), which will supply them with power and, thanks to a special shield – the MMO Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF) – protect them from the extreme temperatures that vary between 430 degrees Celsius on the planet's day side and minus 180 degrees Celsius on the night side.

Of the 16 instruments on board the two spacecraft, three were primarily developed in Germany: BELA (BepiColombo Laser Altimeter), MPO-MAG (MPO Magnetometer) and MERTIS (Mercury Radiometer...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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