Image: Made for Mercury—the BepiColombo Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter

June 17, 2016, European Space Agency
Credit: Airbus DS GmbH 2015

The shining face of the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter, Japan's contribution to the BepiColombo mission to the Solar System's innermost planet.

The octagonal spacecraft is seen here at ESA's test centre in the Netherlands, where it is being tested alongside the other elements of this dual-spacecraft mission.

During cruise, it will sit above ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter at the top of the BepiColombo stack, to be launched in April 2018. The Mercury Transfer Module will deliver them to Mercury using highly efficient electric propulsion.

While ESA's craft will go into a 480 x 1500 km mapping orbit around Mercury, Japan's will enter a highly elliptical 590 x 11 640 km to study the planet's environment and its magnetic field.

The two spacecraft employ differing strategies to cope with the temperatures in excess of 350°C involved in operating around the closest world to the Sun. Japan's octagonal orbiter will spin 15 times per minute to distribute heat evenly across its surface. But since it cannot spin during BepiColombo's seven-year journey from Earth, it will be protected within the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield.

ESA's orbiter, meanwhile, will maintain a steady attitude, covered with high-temperature insulation with a deep space-facing radiator behind protective louvres that will dump waste heat into space. 

Explore further: Image: Unboxing Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter flight model

Related Stories

Image: BepiColombo in the spotlight

October 13, 2015

BepiColombo is Europe's first mission to Mercury. It will set off in 2017 on a journey to the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System, following in the footsteps of Mariner 10 and Messenger.

Image: T6 ion thruster firing

April 27, 2016

The eerie blue exhaust trail of an ion thruster during a test firing. A quartet of these highly efficient T6 thrusters is being installed on ESA's BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury at ESA's ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, ...

Image: Moving Bepicolombo into ESA's space simulator

November 18, 2014

On 30 October, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, one of the two spacecraft of ESA's BepiColombo mission, was installed in the Large Space Simulator at the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

ESA image: Mercury orbiter test

January 28, 2016

If ESA's Mercury orbiter of the BepiColombo mission seems to stand at an unusual angle above its test chamber floor, that's because it does – intentionally so.

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.