Zurich,11 October 2018. BepiColombo is scheduled to launch from the European spaceport Kourou in French Guiana (South America) on 20 October (GMT) to explore Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system. BepiColombo is a joint project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The spacecraft’s steering system, which will ensure the correct course to Mercury, was developed and built by Europe’s largest space supplier, RUAG Space. The BepiColombo steering system consists of four high-precision positioning mechanisms for the electric satellite engines and a central electronic control unit. “Our steering systems makes sure that the spacecraft is heading towards the right direction”, says Peter Guggenbach, CEO RUAG Space. The products have been delivered to satellite builder Airbus.
Heat protection from RUAG Space
RUAG Space is also providing the thermal protection for the Mercury spacecraft. The insulation protects the spacecraft from the extreme temperatures in space. "Mercury is the planet nearest to the sun, so the spacecraft has to withstand extreme heat of over 450 degrees Celsius," explains Guggenbach. The white-colored thermal insulation consists of high-temperature insulation made of ceramic fibers on the outside. It also serves as protection against micrometeorites. RUAG Space is Europe's market leader in the field of thermal insulation for spacecraft. Almost every European satellite is protected from extreme heat and cold in space by thermal insulation from RUAG Space.
Top and “brain” of Ariane rocket
BepiColombo will be launched with an Ariane5 rocket. The top of the rocket, the payload fairing, was built by RUAG Space. A payload fairing is a nose cone used to protect a spacecraft against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during launch through an atmosphere. RUAG Space is the world’s leading supplier of composite technology payload fairings. Also, the “brain” or on-board computers of the Ariane rocket, was produced by RUAG Space. For BepiColombo, RUAG Space also supplied the ground equipment and satellite containers for transporting the spacecraft on earth.
Flight duration to Mercury is 7 years
The BepiColombo mission is named after the mathematician Giuseppe Colombo. The mission consists of a transport stage and two separate orbits. After 7 years and several swing-by maneuvers of Earth, Venus and Mercury, the probe will enter orbit around Mercury. The probe will be equipped with a variety of instruments to study the planet and its surface will be precisely mapped and an elevation profile created. The chemical and geological compositions of its surface, as well as its magnetic and gravitational field, are determined in more detail.
Overview BepiColombo mission:
Factsheet BepiColombo: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/BepiColombo/BepiColombo_factsheet
RUAG Space: Europe’s leading space supplier
RUAG Space is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe, with a growing presence in the United States. With around 1,300 staff across six countries, it develops and manufactures products for satellites and launch vehicles – playing a key role both in the institutional and commercial space market. RUAG Space is a division of the international technology Group RUAG. RUAG develops and markets internationally sought-after technology applications in the fields of aerospace and defence for use on land, in the air and in space. 56% of RUAG's products and services are destined for the civil market and 44% for the military market. The Group is headquartered in Bern (Switzerland). It has production sites in Switzerland and in 15 other countries in Europe, the USA and Asia-Pacific. RUAG generates sales of approximately CHF 1.96 billion and has over 9,200 employees – 400 of whom are trainees.
Photos and credits
Photo 1: Mercury spacecraft BepiColombo is steered by a system built by RUAG Space. Copyright: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL
Photo 2: The top of Ariane5 rocket (payload fairing) and brain (on-board computers) of the rocket have been built by RUAG Space. (Picture of Ariane5 rocket, carrying Galileo satellites; July 2018). Copyright: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG - P Baudon.
Photo 3: BepiColombo will explore Mercury (artist’s impression of BepiColombo approaching Mercury). Copyright: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL.
Photo 4: “Our steering systems makes sure that the spacecraft is heading towards the right direction”, says Peter Guggenbach, CEO RUAG Space. Copyright: © RUAG Space.