31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 21. Science and Technology of Future Space Missions I
Special Contributed Oral Parallel Session, Tuesday, October 12, 1999, 8:30-10:00am, Sala Kursaal

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[21.07] Mission,System Design and Payload Aspects of ESA's Mercury Cornerstone Mission

A. Ferri, A. Anselmi (Alenia Aerospazio Div. Spazio, Turin, Italy), G.E.N. Scoon (ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands)

Aim of this paper is to summarise the 1-year study performed by Alenia Aerospazio in close co-operation with the European Space Agency, on the Mercury Cornerstone System and Technology Study, as a part of Horizon 2000+ Scientific Programme plan. ESA's definition study towards a mission to Mercury conceives the launch of a S/C in 2009, on a two to three years journey, plus a one-year scientific observations and data take. The mission's primary objectives are manyfolded, aiming at approaching basic scientific questions on the origin and evolution of Mercury: identify and map the chemical and mineral composition of the surface, measure the topography of surface landforms, define the gravitational field, investigate particles and magnetic fields. The mission is also intended to resolve the librational state of the planet, in a system experiment requiring high accuracy inertial attitude (arcsecond level) and orbit (m-level) reconstitution. This experiment will allow to infer whether Mercury has a molten core, which is crucial to theories of magnetic field generation, and theories of the thermal history of terrestrial type planets. A hard-lander is planned to perform in-situ surface geochemical analysis. The mission is expected to provide scientists with a global portrait of Mercury returning about 1200 Gbits of scientific data, during a 1-year observation phase. The crucial aspects of the spacecraft design have to do with the high-temperature and high-radiation environment. Thermal control is achieved by a combination of orbit selection, attitude law, and special design provisions for IR shielding and HT insulation. Ad-hoc design provisions are envisaged for power and antenna mechanisms. Though the conceptual objectives of this industrial study focused on system architectures and enabling technologies for a "Cornerstone" class mission, in this paper emphasis is given on the scientific payload aspects.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: aferri@to.alespazio.it

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