37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 54 Moon, Mercury and Venus
Oral, Thursday, September 8, 2005, 4:20-6:00pm, Law LG19

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[54.01] The BepiColombo Mission to Mercury

Y. Langevin (IAS/CNRS), R. Schulz, J. Van Casteren (ESTEC)

The BepiColombo mission is an ambitious mission to Mercury which is scheduled to be launched in 2012. It will provide a comprehensive survey of the planet and its environment. The results of Messenger (NASA), which are expected in 2011, will be very useful for defining regions of interests targeted by BepiColombo investigations.

The specific strengths of BepiColombo are its ambitious configuration with two orbiters and the advanced TC/TM link, which will provide a high data rate as well as unprecedented accuracy for geodesy and radio science, including general relativity objectives. The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), under the responsibility of ESA, and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), under the responsibility of JAXA, have been tailored to specific science needs. The low eccentricity orbit of the MPO (400 km x 1500 km) and its nadir pointing attitude provide optimal observation conditions for investigating the surface with remote sensing methods. The high eccentricity orbit of the MMO (400 km x 15000 km) and its spin stabilization provide optimal conditions for investigations of the exosphere, the magnetosphere and interactions with the solar wind. A plasma package is also included on the MPO, so as to provide two point measurements in the environment of Mercury.

The present mission baseline combines ion propulsion with gravity assists of the Moon, the Earth, Venus and Mercury so as to provide an adequate mass budget with a single Soyuz launch from Kourou. An alternate scenario with a direct Ariane 5 launch to Venus which implements chemical propulsion and gravity assists is also being investigated.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.