BepiColombo Mission Dates, Objectives & Fact Sheet

BepiColombo Fact Sheet

The entire world has been talking about the ‘Mars Mission’. Mars, which is next to earth and 4thplanet from the Sun has been highly and much talked about. While among all this Mars quest, some European scientists in collaboration with Japan decided to think differently and decided to uncover the secrets of another planet which not many talk about- Mercury.

Quick facts about BepiColombo mission

Launch date: 2017
Mission end: Nominally 1 year in Mercury orbit after arriving in 2024
Launch vehicle: Ariane 5
Launch mass: 4100 kg
Mission phase: Implementation
Orbit: Cruise:

Heliocentric transfer orbit

At Mercury:

MPO polar orbit 480 × 1500 km, 2.3 hr period

MMO polar orbit 590 × 11 640 km, 9.3 hr period

What are the objectives of BepiColombo mission?

BepiColombo is designed to gather information relating and necessary to study and recognize the composition, geophysics, atmosphere, magnetosphere and history of Mercury. Enlisted below are the objectives of the mission:

  • Examine the birth and evolution of the closest planet to the Sun
  • Study the form, interior structure, geology, compositions, craters of Mercury closely
  • Investigate Mercury’s inherent atmosphere (exosphere): its composition and dynamics
  • Research Mercury’s magnetosphere and its structure and dynamics
  • Find out the origin of Mercury’s magnetic field
  • Explore polar deposits, their composition and origin
  • Perform a test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity

It is quite amusing when we hear such a queer name as ‘BepiColombo’ as a mission’s name. It’s not one of those random names which have no
relevance to history and field of science. BepiColombo is named in the honor of Professor Giuseppe (pronounced as Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984). He taught at the University of Padua, Italy. He was a great mathematician and engineer with a knack of imagination. He was the first one to see that an unsuspected oscillation is liable for Mercury’s rotational habit- three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. He also suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.

ESA’s Science Program Committee decided at its meeting in Naples in 1999 to name the Mercury cornerstone mission in honor of Giuseppe Colombo’s
achievements.

This mission has a very interesting journey along the orbits of planets it will flyby. It uses the concept of inter-planetary gravitation to carry out the mission.

BepiColombo Mission Facts Dates

The BepiColombo journey employs a solar electric propulsion system so that a combination of low-thrust arcs and flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury are used to reach Mercury with low relative velocity. A brief summary of the key stages in the journey to Mercury are given here:

  • Launch on Ariane 5 (the launch vehicle) in 2017 on escape path to reach heliocentric orbit for Earth flyby after about 1.5 years (depending on launch date)
  • Cruise trajectory with solar electric propulsion stage – the Solar Electric Propulsion Module (SEPM), up to 290 mN thrust – plus seven gravity assists: Earth, Venus (twice) and Mercury (five times)
  • Approximately 6.5 year cruise phase to Mercury
  • Ion propulsion stage abandoned shortly before arrival at Mercury
  • Capture and insertion by chemical propulsion engines within the MPO
  • On reaching MMO orbit, the MMO is released
  • MPO is inserted into final orbit using thrust from chemical propulsion engines
  • For MPO and MMO: one Earth-year (4 Mercury years) operations in Mercury orbit with optional one year extension

BepiColombo KEY MISSION DATES (FOR A 2017 LAUNCH)

Date Mission event
2017 Launch
16 July 2018 Earth flyby
22 September 2019 First Venus flyby
4 May 2020 Second Venus flyby
23 July 2020 First Mercury flyby
14 April 2021 Second Mercury flyby
6 July 2022 Third Mercury flyby
29 December 2022 Fourth Mercury flyby
4 February 2023 Fifth Mercury flyby
1 January 2024 Arrival at Mercury
1 April 2025 End of nominal mission
1 April 2026 End of extended mission

3 Replies to “BepiColombo Mission Dates, Objectives & Fact Sheet”

  1. First of all, being bored at work does pay well if you have a smartphone and you browse through blogs. Amazing information with facts thoughtfully incorporated within. Definitely going to come back for more! 🙂

  2. Technology never ceases to amaze me. Every other say there are new developments and even more interesting things being talked about for future. Endless possibilities makes me even more curious. Wonderful insights here at you blog. Shall keep watching this space for more! 🙂

  3. Technology never ceases to amaze me. Every other say there are new developments and even more interesting things being talked about for future. Endless possibilities makes me even more curious. Wonderful insights here at you blog. Shall keep watching this space for more! 🙂

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