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ESA - BepiColombo mission puts Mercury in sight

ESA – BepiColombo mission puts Mercury in sight

Japanese Europeans BepiColombo spacecraft It will fly across its future destination for the second time on its journey to Mercury on Thursday and set its sights on its target planet. The probe will use flybys to change its orbit and speed, and will eventually reach the planet closest to the sun in December 2025. Institute for Space Research (IWF) Austrian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday.

The BepiColombo satellite mission has been en route to nearly nine billion kilometers, a rocky, little-explored planet for three and a half years. During its seven-year journey, the probe has to fly over the planets several times until it is slowed down until it finally reaches its final orbit around Mercury. On Thursday, it is scheduled to complete the second of a total of six Mercury flights with its two orbiting vessels Mio and MPO. As early as October 2021, BepiColombo came within 200 kilometers of the hot planet. On June 23, the spacecraft will once again use Mercury’s gravity to change its orbit and speed with virtually no use of propulsion or fuel, according to the Graz-based International Monetary Fund.

Share the International Monetary Fund Graz

As part of BepiColombo, two orbiting craft will fly to Mercury at the same time for the first time. The IWF participates in magnetic field measurements in both the space probes and the PICAM ion spectrometer on the MPO. As of December 2025, the surface and magnetic field of Mercury will be probed with the help of orbiters. The European-Japanese joint project, with a total cost of about €2 billion, aims to help understand the origins of the solar system.

The two magnetometers were already turned on during the first flight in the fall of 2021: “For some of the onboard instruments, this was the beginning of scientific data collection and an opportunity to prepare for the main mission,” says Wolfgang Baumjohan, the scientific director of the Mio-Magnetometer carries. For example, the MPO magnetometer sensors, located on the boom (extension) already detected, have already recorded details of the solar wind and magnetic field around Mercury.

says Daniel Schmid, co-scientist on the Graz magnetism team. The rise and fall of the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind can already be made audible through the recorded data. The PICAM ion spectrometer has detected ions on both sides of the planet day and night for the first time. However, these data are still under evaluation.

On the second flight to the target planet, the PICAM team wants to use and test operating modes with high time accuracy. The ion camera’s ability to create quasi-shots through rapid measurements with an integration time of just 250 milliseconds per setting is required to capture and photograph the highly dynamic processes at the fringes of Mercury’s magnetosphere. The nearly uninterrupted operation of 72 hours also provides the opportunity to study the behavior and reliability of the instrument in long-term measurements.

The magnetic field is checked

Overall, Graz researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the magnetic field from Mercury’s second flight. BepiColombo will fly across the Southern Hemisphere again, this time approaching within 200 kilometers of the planet. But this time around, the spacecraft will also explore the day side, paying particular attention to the interaction between the solar wind and Mercury’s weak internal magnetic field.