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Green Light for Bepi

Europe’s first mission to Mercury will soon be ready for shipping to the spaceport to begin final preparations for launch

Europe’s first mission to Mercury will soon be ready for shipping to the spaceport to begin final preparations for launch.


The mission passed a major review yesterday, meaning that the three BepiColombo spacecraft, along with ground equipment and mission experts, are confirmed to start the move from ESA’s centre in the Netherlands to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at the end of next month. The launch window is open from 5 October until 29 November.


Once at Kourou, an intensive six months of essential preparation are needed, including more review checkpoints.


The final weeks will see the spacecraft stack inside the Ariane 5 rocket fairing, and preparing the launch vehicle itself, ready to blast the mission on a seven-year journey around the inner Solar System to investigate Mercury’s mysteries.


A transfer module will carry two science orbiters to the innermost planet, using a combination of solar power, electric propulsion and nine gravity-assist flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury to set it on course.


The two orbiters will make complementary measurements of the innermost planet and its environment from different orbits, from its deep interior to its interaction with the solar wind, to provide the best understanding of Mercury to date, and how the innermost planet of a solar system forms and evolves close to its parent star.


Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and with Venus, the Earth and Mars is part of the family of terrestrial planets. Its study is important in order to define and validate the models of formation and evolution of this group but also of the entire Solar System, including understanding the conditions favourable to the birth of life on ours and on other planets.


The Italian scientific community with ASI's support, supplies a relevant contribution to the mission, with four experiments, one led by an Italian Principal Investigator. Specifically it concerns the SIMBIO-SYS, an integrated observation system of the surface and exosphere with cameras (HRIC and STC) and spectroscopes (VIHI). The other instruments with Italian leadership are: the high sensitivity ISA accelerometer, developed by INAF and TAS-I, and the related radioscience experiment MORE, based on the on-board transponder in Ka band (KaT). Also by the TAS-I, there is the SERENA experiment for the study of the particle environment through two analyzers of neutral particles (NPA) ELENA and STOFIO and two ion spectrometers (IS) MIPA and PICAM. Scientific responsibility belongs to IFSI, ENEA, ISM and IFN and industry responsibility to AMDL.