The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT (03:45:28 CEST) on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.
Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the New Norcia ground tracking station at 02:21 GMT (04:21 CEST) confirmed that the launch was successful. BepiColombo is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA. It is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its dynamic environment at the same time. Sensors from Sensitec are already used in several space missions due to their robustness and reliability even under these difficult conditions. GMR sensors control the position of an aperture in a spectrometer.
The two science orbiters will also be able to operate some of their instruments during the cruise phase, affording unique opportunities to collect scientifically valuable data at Venus. Moreover, some of the instruments designed to study Mercury in a particular way can be used in a completely different way at Venus, which has a thick atmosphere compared with Mercury’s exposed surface.