Ion engines mission BepiColombo passed the first test in space

In addition to validation of scientific equipment, which was reported yesterday, one of the spacecraft BepiColombo — a joint mission of the European space Agency (EKA) and the Japanese aerospace exploration Agency (JAXA) on the study of mercury conducted a successful test of its ion engines, having with them the first correction maneuver, according to the official ESA website.

During the mission BepiColombo to mercury, launched on 20 October, was sent flying module MTM (Mercury Transfer Module) with four ion engines and two Orbiter — planetary and magnetospheric. Migratory module will deliver the spacecraft to mercury, and Orbiter will study the surface of celestial body and its magnetosphere.

For the next seven years, the devices have to overcome 9 billion kilometers, although the distance from the Earth to mercury is a maximum of 271 million kilometers. The reason is that during the flight the spacecraft BepiColombo will make a total of 9 gravitational maneuver around the Earth, Venus and mercury, until eventually not released in the desired orbit, the most small planet in the Solar system.

Migratory antenna module

On 20 November, the management team of the mission led the launch of one of the ion engines of the transport module. Satisfied with the results, after three hours the mission control Center was first launched two ion engine is a migratory block, then all four. For five hours they worked at full capacity of 125 mn.

Each ion engine apparatus with a diameter of 22 cm uses an electric charge generated from solar panels to ionize the atoms of the gas xenon. The particles are pulled out from the nozzle at speeds of over 50 km/s. the Advantage of these engines, in contrast to the same chemical, is that they can run for days, even weeks. Even low constant thrust would cause the ship to develop high speed.

Engineers assume that heavy duty ion engines T6, manufactured by the British company QinetiQ, will give a migratory module additional traction. It is planned that in the course of flight vehicles engines will work during the week with an eight-hour break.

If all goes according to plan, BepiColombo will arrive at mercury orbit on 5 December 2025 and will study the planet’s surface and its chemical composition.

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