Sunday, August 14, 2022

BepiColombo ready for second Mercury flyby

Critical moments during the second Mercury flyby of Bepicolombo on 23 June 2022. The spacecraft will skim the surface at an altitude of about 200 km at its closest approach at 09:44 UTC (11:44 CEST). Several in-situ instruments will continue to operate and collect data as usual, and BepiColombo’s three surveillance cameras will also be active. Images will be downlinked during the afternoon of 23 June and will be released in the following days. credit: European Space Agency

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission is gearing up for its second close flyby of Mercury on June 23. ESA’s spacecraft operations team is guiding BepiColombo through planet six gravity assists before entering orbit around it in 2025.

Like its first encounter last year, this week’s flyby will also bring the spacecraft to an altitude of about 200 km above the planet’s surface. Closest approach is estimated at 09:44 UT (11:44 CEST).

The primary purpose of the flyby is to use the planet’s gravity to correct BepiColombo’s trajectory. Since launching into space aboard Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou in October 2018, BepiColombo has been using nine planetary flybys: one on Earth, two on Venus and six on Mercury, as part of the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system. with. Help Mercury enter orbit against the immense gravitational pull of our Sun.

Even though BepiColombo is in a “stacked” cruise configuration for these brief flybys, meaning that many instruments may not yet be fully powered, it will still boost our understanding and knowledge of the Solar System’s innermost planet. Mercury can take an incredible taste of science to give. A sequence of snapshots will be taken by BepiColombo’s three surveillance cameras showing the planet’s surface, while several magnetic, plasma and particle monitoring instruments will sample the environment from both near and far the planet in the hours following close approach.

“Even during fleeting flybys these science ‘grips’ are extremely valuable,” says ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist Johannes Benkhof. “We get to fly our world-class science laboratory through diverse and unexplored parts of Mercury’s environment that we will never have access to once in orbit, as well as ensuring that we transition into the main science mission.” Will be getting off to a major start on preparation. As quick and easy as possible.”

A unique aspect of the BepiColombo mission is its dual spacecraft nature. The ESA-led Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the JAXA-led Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, Mio, will be delivered into complementary orbits around the planet in 2025 by a third module, ESA’s Mercury Transfer Module. Working together, they will study all aspects of it. To better understand the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star, the mysterious inner planet from its core to surface processes, magnetic fields and exosphere. Dual observations are important for understanding solar wind-driven magnetospheric processes, and BepiColombo will break new ground by providing unique observations of the planet’s magnetic field and the interaction of the solar wind with the planet at two different locations at the same time.

BepiColombo ready for second Mercury flyby
The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on 1 October 2021 as the spacecraft passed over the planet for a gravity assist maneuver. The image was taken at 23:41:12 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 when the spacecraft was 1410 km from Mercury. The closest approach of 199 km occurred some time ago on 1 October at 23:34:41 UTC. This image is one of the closest obtained during the flyby. The cameras provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The magnetometer boom of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and part of the spacecraft’s body are also visible in the image. Closer to the edge of the image is the 342 km Raphael crater, with smaller, smaller craters on its floor. Nearby, Flaubert Crater has a cluster of central peaks, rather than the typical single central peak of some smaller craters. The central peaks are the result of the ‘elastic rebound’ of the target area when struck by a high-speed impactor. Data from BepiColombo’s orbital tour of Mercury will help us better understand impact catering. credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

on course for slingshot

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Gravitational flybys require extremely precise deep-space navigation work, ensuring that a spacecraft passes a massive body that will change its orbit at the right distance at the right angle and with the right velocity. All of this is calculated years in advance, but should be as perfect as possible on that day.

Entering orbit around Mercury is a daunting task. The first BepiColombo had to give up its orbital energy of “birth” with its launch from Earth, which meant it flew into the same orbit as our home planet for the first time—and reduced its orbit to the same size as that of Mercury. BepiColombo’s first flybys of Earth and Venus were used to “dump” energy and fall closer to the center of the solar system, while a series of Mercury flybys are being used to lose more orbital energy, but now Scorched planet for the purpose of capturing it.

For this second of six such flybys, BepiColombo needs to pass Mercury at a distance of only 200 km from its surface with a relative speed of 7.5 km/s. In doing so, BepiColombo’s velocity with respect to the Sun would slow down by 1.3 km/s, bringing it closer to Mercurial orbit.

“We have three slots available to perform correction maneuvers from ESA’s ESOC Mission Control in Darmstadt, Germany, so that we are in the right place at the right time to use Mercury’s gravity as we need it,” said Elsa. Montagn, mission manager, explains. Bepicolombo.

“The first such slot was used to tune a desired flyby altitude of 200 km on the planet’s surface to ensure that the spacecraft would not be on a collision course with Mercury. Thanks to the careful work, this first trajectory correction was executed very precisely such that no further slots were required.”

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selfie cam running

It is not possible to take high-resolution imagery with the main science camera during flybys because it is shielded by the transfer module while the spacecraft is in cruise configuration. However, BepiColombo’s three monitoring cameras (MCAMs) will be taking pictures.

Because BepiColombo’s closest approach will take place on the night side of the planet, the first images in which Mercury will be illuminated are expected to be about five minutes after it reaches a distance of about 800 km.

The cameras provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution, and are located on the Mercury Transfer Module such that they also capture the spacecraft’s solar arrays and antennas. As the spacecraft changes its orientation during the flyby, Mercury will be seen passing behind the spacecraft’s structural elements.

The first images will be downlinked within a few hours after closest approach; The first is expected to be available for public release during the afternoon of 23 June. Subsequent images will be downlinked during the rest of the day and a second image release, including several new images, is expected by Friday morning. All images are to be released to the public on Monday, June 27 at the Planetary Science Archive.

For close-up images it should be possible to identify large impact craters on the planet’s surface and other major geological features associated with tectonic and volcanic activity, such as scarps, wrinkle ridges and lava plains. Mercury’s heavily cratered surface records a 4.6-billion-year history of asteroid and comet bombardment, which, along with unique tectonic and volcanic curiosities, will help scientists unlock the secrets of the planet’s place in the evolution of the Solar System.


ESA orbiter will collide with Mercury on October 1


Provided by the European Space Agency

Citation: BepiColombo line-up for second Mercury flyby (2022, June 20). Retrieved June 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-bepicolombo-lines-mercury-flyby.html

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