IRF and the BepiColombo mission

Artist's impression of BepiColombo (ESA and C. Carreau) with MIPA (left) and ENA (right, photos: IRF)
Artist's impression of BepiColombo (ESA and C. Carreau) with MIPA (left) and ENA (right, photos: IRF)

BepiColombo is ESA's first mission to Mercury and it will be conducted in cooperation with Japan as a joint mission between ESA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), executed under ESA leadership. BepiColombo will help reveal information on the composition and history of Mercury, and the history and formation of the inner planets in general, including Earth.

The mission consists of two individual orbiters. ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), that will map the planet, will be operated from ESOC, Germany. Japan's contribution is the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO); it will investigate the planet's magnetosphere.

The launch is at present scheduled for launch in 2018 and the two spacecraft will arrive at Mercury in late 2024. During the journey to Mercury, MMO will be shielded from the Sun by the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), which also provides the interface between MMO and MPO. The fourth component of the composite spacecraft stack is the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), whose primary task is to provide solar-electric propulsion for the journey to Mercury.

IRF participates in the BepiColombo mission with three instruments, one on MPO and two on MMO. IRF in Kiruna, through Stas Barabash, is Co-Principal Investigator on the Italy-led instrument package SERENA (Search for Exosphere Refilling and Emitted Neutral Abundances), a neutral and ionised particle analyser on MPO; IRF's contribution is an ion detector, MIPA (Miniature Ion Precipitation Analyzer).

On MMO, Stas Barabash at IRF in Kiruna is Co-PI on the Japan-led instrument package MPPE (Mercury Plasma/Particle Experiment) and contributes the ENA instrument (Energetic Neutrals Analyzer). IRF in Uppsala, with Jan-Erik Wahlund as Co-PI, is responsible for the electronics and probe surfaces for sensors in KTH's electric field experiment MEFISTO (Mercury Electric Field In Situ TOol) in the Japan-led instrument PWI (Mercury Plasma Wave Instrument).

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Updated: 2016-07-12, webmaster*