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Part I: BepiColombo en route to Mercury: Mission Overview and First Results

Presentation #100.05 in the session Welcome Address, Farinella Prize Lecture and BepiColombo en route to Mercury Plenary Lecture (Plenary Lecture)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Part I: BepiColombo en route to Mercury: Mission Overview and First Results

BepiColombo is a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for comprehensive exploration of planet Mercury. BepiColombo, has been launched on 20 October 2018 from the European spaceport Kourou in French Guyana and it is currently on a seven-year-long cruise to Mercury. BepiColombo consists of two orbiters, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mio). In late 2025/early 2026 these orbiter will be put in orbit around the innermost planet of our Solar System.

Following the launch, BepiColombo has already performed six flybys (one at Earth, two at Venus and three of Mercury). Another three flybys at Mercury are planned in late 2024 and early 2025. When in orbit, BepiColombo with its state of the art and very comprehensive payload will perform measurements to increase our knowledge on the fundamental questions about Mercury’s evolution, composition, interior, magnetosphere, and exosphere.

Although the two spacecraft are in a stacked configuration during the cruise and only some of the instruments are able to perform scientific observations, the mission produces already some very valuable results. During the second Venus flyby several instruments onboard of both spacecraft MPO and Mio obtained unique results measured at one of the few gas-dynamics dominated interaction regions between the supersonic solar wind and Venus.

Mercury’s southern inner magnetosphere, a so far unexplored region, has been observed by the BepiColombo ion and fields instruments during the pass. The three performed Mercury’s flybys revealed a magnetosphere populated by diverse populations and confirmed a really dynamic regime. Gravitation effects on the communication time, when the spacecraft was close to the sun could also be observed.

During the talk a status of the mission and results from science operations during cruise will be presented.

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