#14: BepiColombo's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter has arrived at ESTEC
27 May 2015The flight model of the BepiColombo Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter has arrived at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands. Later this year, it will join the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, the Mercury Transfer Module, and the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure in the spacecraft stack.
The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) flight model, which forms Japan's contribution to the mission, arrived at ESTEC on 14 April, having flown from Japan to Amsterdam (Schiphol) Airport and then been transported by road. The flight model was accompanied by its Electrical Ground Support Equipment (EGSE), which will be used to test it, and its Mechanical Ground Support Equipment (MGSE), which will be needed for handling the spacecraft during integration.
| Unpacking the MMO at ESTEC. The orbiter arrived from Japan in April. |
Credit: ESA – Anneke Le Floc'h
Upon arrival at ESTEC, the spacecraft remained in its transport container in a cleanroom, to allow the internal and external temperatures to equalise. While this was happening, the ground support equipment was unpacked. The transport container was opened on 21 April, and the MMO lifted onto its integration stand. Since then, the instruments on MMO have been functionally tested and engineers are now busy preparing the spacecraft for the next series of tests.
|Preparing MMO for integration at ESTEC. Credit: ESA – Anneke Le Floc'h|
In June, JAXA will hand the MMO over for system-level integration. It will join the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) and the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF) in the 'spacecraft stack'. Prior to mechanical integration into the spacecraft stack, an 'electrical stack', where the spacecraft are connected together but remain physically separate, will be used to check the system-level functionality of the entire stack.
BepiColombo is Europe's first mission to Mercury. It is scheduled to launch in early 2017 and arrive at Mercury in January 2024. It will endure temperatures in excess of 350 °C and gather data during a one-year nominal mission, with a possible one-year extension. The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). During the journey to Mercury, the MMO will be shielded from the Sun by the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), which also provides the interface between the MMO and the MPO. The fourth component of the composite spacecraft stack is the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), whose primary task is to provide solar-electric propulsion for the journey to Mercury.
BepiColombo is a joint mission by ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), executed under ESA leadership. The Prime Contractor for BepiColombo is Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium GmbH).