Mercury Transfer Module solar wing deployment

June 12, 2017, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA–C. Carreau, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Spanning 14 m from the spacecraft body, this impressive solar wing is one of two attached to ESA's BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module.

The solar deployment mechanisms were tested last month at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands as part of final checks ahead of the mission's October 2018 launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

During testing, the five panels were supported from above to simulate the weightlessness of space.

The wings will be folded against the spacecraft's inside the Ariane 5 and will only open once in space. Mechanisms lock each panel segment in place. They can be rotated with the solar array drive attached to the main body.

Despite travelling towards the Sun, the transfer module requires a large solar array. Temperature constraints mean they cannot directly face the Sun for long periods without degrading, so they have to be angled and thus require a greater area to meet BepiColombo's power demands.

The module will use a combination of electric propulsion and multiple gravity-assists at Earth, Venus and Mercury to carry two scientific orbiters to the innermost planet in our Solar System.

After the 7.2 year journey, ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Japan's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will separate from the transfer module and enter to their own orbits. They will make complementary measurements of Mercury's interior, surface, exosphere and magnetosphere.

The data will tell us more about the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star, providing a better understanding of the overall evolution of our own Solar System as well as exoplanet systems.

Explore further: Image: BepiColombo solar wing deployment test

Related Stories

Image: BepiColombo solar wing deployment test

March 6, 2017

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is undergoing final testing at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands prior to its launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in October 2018.

Image: Inside BepiColombo's mercury transfer module

October 3, 2014

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.

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.

Four steps nearer Mercury

September 7, 2016

The base of ESA's Mercury Transfer Module with its four T6 ion thrusters fully fitted for its 6.5 year journey to Mercury, along with the rest of the BepiColombo spacecraft.

Recommended for you

Blazar's brightness cycle confirmed by NASA's Fermi mission

October 18, 2018

A two-year cycle in the gamma-ray brightness of a blazar, a galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole, has been confirmed by 10 years of observations from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The findings were announced ...

Astronomers find a cosmic Titan in the early universe

October 17, 2018

An international team of astronomers has discovered a titanic structure in the early Universe, just two billion years after the Big Bang. This galaxy proto-supercluster, nicknamed Hyperion, is the largest and most massive ...

Double dust ring test could spot migrating planets

October 17, 2018

New research by a team led by an astrophysicist at the University of Warwick has a way of finally telling whether newly forming planets are migrating within the disc of dust and gas that typically surrounds stars or whether ...

Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity

October 17, 2018

Collimated jets provide astronomers with some of the most powerful evidence that a supermassive black hole lurks in the heart of most galaxies. Some of these black holes appear to be active, gobbling up material from their ...

Researchers investigate the peculiar radio source IC 1531

October 17, 2018

An international team of researchers has investigated a peculiar extragalactic radio source known as IC 1531. The new study analyzes the nature of IC 1531's high-energy emission, suggesting that the source is a radio galaxy. ...

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.