From ESA: “BepiColombo spacecraft modules stacked up in launch configuration”

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ESA–C. Carreau, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BepiColombo, a joint ESA and JAXA mission to Mercury, has completed its final tests in launch configuration, the last time it will be stacked like this before being reassembled at the launch site next year.

The image was taken on 6 July, during a dedicated press event where media were invited to see BepiColombo in ESA’s test centre. In the coming weeks, the three spacecraft elements will be separated for a final set of tests.

The Mercury Transfer Module is seen at the bottom of the stack, with one folded solar array visible to the right. When both solar arrays are deployed they span about 30 m. The module will use solar-electric propulsion as well as gravity assists at Earth, Venus and Mercury to carry two science orbiters to Mercury orbit.

ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter is seen in the middle of the stack (with the folded solar array towards the left and antenna to the right). JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter sits at the top of the 6 m-high stack. During the cruise to Mercury it will be protected by the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), which in this image is sitting on the floor to the right.

ESA/JAXA BepiColumbo

After arriving at Mercury, the modules will separate, and from their respective orbits the science orbiters will make complementary measurements of Mercury’s interior, surface, exosphere and magnetosphere, following up on many of the open questions raised by NASA’s Messenger mission.

NASA/Messenger satellite

The final tests completed with BepiColombo in the launch configuration – also with the MOSIF in place – were vibration tests to simulate the shaking conditions at launch. In the coming weeks the assembly will be dismantled and the individual modules will undergo final checks following the vibration test, including solar array deployment tests. In addition, the transfer module will undergo a thermal vacuum test to simulate the extreme environmental conditions expected during the cruise.

The spacecraft is scheduled to leave Europe in March, with a launch from Kourou, French Guiana, anticipated in October 2018, and arrival at Mercury at the end of 2025.

See here for the latest status update, and our video gallery for examples of some of the recent tests.

See the full article here .

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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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