On 20th October 2018, at 01:45 UT, the BepiColombo mission to Mercury launched from Kourou, French Guiana. BepiColombo consists of two main spacecraft, both of which make extensive use of SpaceWire for onboard data handling, plus a propulsion module using an ion thruster for the seven year voyage to Mercury orbit.
This joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be the third mission to explore Mercury, following on from NASA’s Mariner 10 (1973) and Messenger (2004). The European module, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and the Japanese module, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), will spend at least one year studying Mercury, one of the most mysterious and little understood planets in our Solar System.
It’s hoped that the observations of the planet’s surface and internal structure, and of its unusually strong magnetic field, will help improve theories of the origin and evolution of our Solar System, and also of the likely nature of planetary systems around other stars.
All of us at STAR-Dundee would like to congratulate the BepiColombo team on the successful development and launch of the mission, and we are grateful for the small part we were able to play in this.