Closer to Mercury

  • 30-Jun-2008 08:05 EDT

The European Space Agency issued a contract valued at €350.9 million to Astrium to build the Mercury probe BepiColombo for a mission to the innermost planet of the solar system. BepiColombo is scheduled to begin its journey to Mercury in 2013, and is considered to be the most sophisticated scientific mission in the history of European space exploration. BepiColombo will consist of three modules and will have a height of 5 m and a mass of 3 t, of which about 50% is propellant. Astrium in Germany leads an industrial team whose members include Astrium Ltd. in the U.K. and Thales Alenia Space in Italy. Astrium-Germany is responsible for the entire three-section spacecraft, including attitude and orbit control development, as well as integration of the engineering model. Astrium-U.K. is responsible for the structure of the entire spacecraft, including the launch vehicle adapter. Astrium-France will develop the onboard software.

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