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Mercury mission: BepiColombo gets ready to launch

A mission to Mercury is getting closer to the launch pad.
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BepiColombo: 'Last chance to see' Mercury mission

The two satellites that make up the BepiColombo mission to Mercury were presented to the media on Thursday.
This joint European and Japanese venture has been in development for two decades, but should finally get to the launch pad next year.
The two spacecraft will travel together but separate on arrival to conduct their complementary science studies.

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Mercury Transfer Module solar wing deployment

Spanning 14 m from the spacecraft body, this impressive solar wing is one of two attached to ESA's BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module.
The solar wing deployment mechanisms were tested last month at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands as part of final checks ahead of the mission's October 2018 launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

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New artist's views of the BepiColombo spacecraft that will be launched to Mercury in 2018.

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The engineering model of the BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module has completed a 12-day Sun-simulation test inside the Large Space Simulator at ESA's test centre in the Netherlands, where it received a taste of the extreme solar heating it will experience when it enters orbit around the Solar System's innermost planet in 2022.
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Bepi mission
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Europe's Mercury mission takes shape

Any spacecraft that plans to visit the innermost planet, Mercury, gets double the trouble.
On one side, it's baked by the Sun, receiving some 14,000 watts per square metre, about 10 times what a spacecraft in orbit around Earth would receive.
But the spacecraft is also then baked on the other side because the planet itself is a "hot potato", where surface temperatures can reach 470C.

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Simulating separation shock

Spoiler

Shock testing of the BepiColombo structural and thermal model, shown in real time and presented again in slow motion afterwards. In this test, the spacecraft model is exposed to the shocks it will experience when BepiColombo separates from the upper stage of an Ariane 5 launcher during its voyage into space. At the signal, the launch vehicle assembly unit is released onto blocks of foam rubber while accelerometers mounted on the spacecraft measure the effect of the shock. The test was carried out in the test centre at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.



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BepiColombo vibration test

BepiColombo's structural and thermal model undergoing axis vibration testing at ESTEC, ESA's space research and technology centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. From top to bottom are the sunshield, which conceals the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, with the Mercury Planetary Orbiter below. Underneath is the Mercury Transfer Module, which will deliver the stack of two scientific satellites into orbit around the planet. The stack is roughly six metres high. During the 2.5 minute vibration test, the spacecraft was subjected to frequencies from 3 Hz to 100 Hz, mimicking conditions it will experience when it lifts off on an Ariane 5 launch vehicle in 2015.



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Bepi Colombo mission to Mercury


Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, remains somewhat of a mystery to us.
In the past, because of its proximity to the Sun, it has been difficult for Earth-based telescopes to observe Mercury against the ferocious solar light. In 2015, to increase our understanding of this mysterious planet, Europe is launching BepiColombo, the first dedicated mission to Mercury. It will reach its destination in 2022.

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BepiColombo Mercury explorer to be launched on Ariane
 
Reaching one of the most mysterious planets in our Solar System takes enormous power and finesse. ESA has now firmly entrusted its precious Mercury explorer to Europe's largest rocket - the Ariane 5.
ESA today signed the contract with Arianespace to launch its BepiColombo mission on an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.

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