Image: Inside BepiColombo's mercury transfer module

October 3, 2014, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA–A. Le Floc’h

This labyrinth of power, data and propellant lines is found inside the Mercury Transfer Module, the powerful haulage vehicle tasked with transporting ESA's BepiColombo mission on its 7.5-year journey to the innermost planet.

This is the , which will be among the attractions on show at Sunday's ESTEC Open Day. The two wrinkled-looking silver spheres are .

The main challenge of flying to Mercury is to slow down enough to fall into the Sun's gravitational pull, the strength of which grows with proximity.

The module will use a combination of chemical and electric thrusters to make the trek, interspersed with gravity-assist swingbys of Earth, Venus and Mercury itself.

A pair of solar wings, adding up to 33 sq m in total, will generate the power needed to keep the electric thrusters firing.

The module will sit at the bottom of the BepiColombo stack, next to ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter, which will be attached in turn to JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.

BepiColombo is due to be launched by Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana in 2016.

Explore further: Ariane rocket to hoist Europe-Japan Mercury mission

Related Stories

The shock of separation

August 28, 2012

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury has undergone a series of shock tests at ESA's test facilities to replicate conditions it will experience during its intense ride into space. This video shows tests to mimic the moment it ...

ESA's Mercury mapper feels the heat

January 18, 2011

Key components of the ESA-led Mercury mapper BepiColombo have been tested in a specially upgraded European space simulator. ESA's Large Space Simulator is now the most powerful in the world and the only facility capable of ...

Europe's Mercury mission swings into action

January 18, 2008

The European Space Agency (ESA) signalled the start of a busy period for the planet Mercury, when it signed the contract for industrial development to start for the BepiColombo mission today (18th January 2008) at Astrium ...

Recommended for you

See a passing comet this Sunday

December 14, 2018

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope.

Video: Enjoying the Geminids from above and below

December 14, 2018

On the night of December 13, into the morning of December 14, 2018, tune into the night sky for a dazzling display of fireballs. Thanks to the International Space Station, this sky show – the Geminids meteor shower—will ...

Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

December 14, 2018

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.