1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.



BepiColombo Mercury Mission

BepiColombo Mercury Mission


Key Dates:

  • Jun 2011: Launch
  • Jan 2015: End of Mission
  • Status: Under development

Scientific Instruments:

Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO)
  1. Imaging system consisting of a wide-angle and narrow angle camera
  2. Infrared spectrometer
  3. Ultraviolet spectrometer
  4. Gamma, X-ray, and neutron spectrometers
  5. Laser altimeter
  6. Near Earth Object telescope and detection system
  7. Radio science experiments
Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO)
  1. Set of fluxgate magnetometers
  2. Charged particle detectors
  3. Wave receiver
  4. Positive ion emitter
  5. Imaging system
Mercury Surface Element (MSE) - (Canceled)
  1. Imaging system (a descent camera and a surface camera)
  2. Heat flow and physical properties package
  3. Alpha X-ray spectrometer
  4. Magnetometer
  5. Seismometer
  6. Soil penetrating device (mole)
  7. Micro-rover.

Fast Facts:

  • The mission is named for Professor Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984), an Italian mathematician and engineer.
  • Professor Colombo suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.
  • It will take two Russian Soyuz-Fregat rockets to launch all the spacecraft.

Mission Results:

One of the Cornerstone series of missions from the European Space Agency (ESA), BepiColombo's visit to Mercury is still in the planning stages. Due to budgetary constraints the lander portion (The Mercury Surface Element, or MSE) of the mission has already been cancelled.

Currently, BepiColombo involves two components (a third has been canceled): the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The two components will be launched together on a Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat-M booster in August 2013. The spacecraft will have a 6 year interplanetary cruise to Mercury (originally planned at 3.5 years) using solar-electric propulsion and Moon, Venus, and Mercury gravity assists. When it arrives at Mercury in August 2019, it will endure temperatures as high as 350 °C and gather data during its 1 year nominal mission from September 2019 until September 2020, with a possible 1-year extension to September 2021.

BepiColombo has several objectives:

  • Origin and evolution of a planet close to the parent star
  • Mercury as a planet: form, interior, structure, geology, composition and craters
  • Mercury's vestigial atmosphere (exosphere): composition and dynamics
  • Mercury's magnetized envelope (magnetosphere): structure and dynamics
  • Origin of Mercury's magnetic field
  • Test of Einstein's theory of general relativity

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.