Airbus Defence and Space

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BepiColombo - Mission to Mercury

After cool Mars and hot Venus, European spaceflight is now turning towards the still largely unexplored planet Mercury. The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus Defence and Space to build its BepiColombo Mercury probe.

BepiColombo will comprise three modules: a European orbiter, a Japanese orbiter, and a propulsion module that will take the two probes to Mercury. The overall unit will be roughly six metres high and will weigh around four metric tons. About one third of this weight will be made up of fuel.

Airbus Defence and Space Germany is responsible for the complete ‘three-piece’ spacecraft and benefits from Europe-wide capabilities and expertise. Airbus Defence and Space UK is responsible for the revolutionary electric and chemical propulsion systems as well as the entire structure of all three modules. Airbus Defence and Space Spain has developed and built the transfer module structure with the latest carbon fibre technology. Airbus Defence and Space France will develop the on-board software, based on that of the Rosetta, Mars Express and Venus Express probes already in space.

The launch is planned for 2017. An Ariane 5 rocket will carry BepiColombo into space from the European spaceport at Kourou and insert it into an interplanetary trajectory.

For the six-year journey to Mercury, the electrical propulsion will be used, as well as several planetary swing-bys around the Earth, Venus and Mercury itself.

Space ExplorationBepiColombo