J. Phys. IV France
Volume 121, December 2004
Page(s) 249 - 257

J. Phys. IV France 121 (2004) 249-257

DOI: 10.1051/jp4:2004121017

BepiColombo: A visit to Mercury

R. Schulz

ESA Research and Scientific Support Department, ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands

BepiColombo is the planetary mission of the Cosmic Vision Programme of the European Space Agency (ESA), devoted to the thorough exploration of Mercury and its environment. It will be carried out as a joint project between ESA and JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency). BepiColombo consists of two spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The MMO studies the wave and particle environment of the planet, while the MPO is dedicated to the characterization of Mercury itself. Both spacecraft will be in dedicated orbits that have been optimized for their tasks. They will be launched together on a single Soyuz-Fregat in July 2012 and reach Mercury about 4 years later. Then BepiColombo will start its one year mission, which will provide the detailed information necessary to understand the process of planetary formation and evolution in the hottest part of the proto-planetary nebula as well as the similarities and differences between the magnetospheres of Mercury and the Earth.

© EDP Sciences 2004