BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter Proto-Flight Mechanical and Propulsion Bus Arrives at ESTEC


image The BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter Mechanical and Propulsion Bus Proto-Flight Model (the Structure with integrated heat pipes and chemical propulsion subsystem) has arrived at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands for its bake-out operation.

The BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) Mechanical and Propulsion Bus (MPB) Proto-Flight Model (PFM) arrived at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in December. It had travelled from the Stevenage (UK) facility of Astrium, where the propulsion subsystem and the heat pipes had been integrated. The MPB will be subjected to a bake-out operation, to reduce the level of organic contamination during the mission, in the ESTEC Phenix Thermal Facility before being transferred to Thales Alenia Space in Italy to perform further integration of the electronic units and payload items under the direction of the Prime Contractor, Astrium GmbH. The orbiter travelled in a specially built transport container that provided it with protection against vibration and shocks. Unpacking

Upon arrival, the exterior of the transport container was cleaned in an airlock at the ESTEC Test Centre. Once it had reached thermal equilibrium overnight, the container was opened; all personnel then left the airlock while the nitrogen from the container dispersed in the large surrounding volume. The lower part of the transport container was then moved into the Rosetta cleanroom.

In the coming days the MPO MPB PFM will be transferred onto its integration trolley, some secondary structure external panels will be removed and the installation of the thermal instrumentation in preparation for the bake-out operation will be performed. About BepiColombo

BepiColombo is Europe's first mission to Mercury. It is scheduled to launch in August 2015 and arrive at Mercury in January 2022. It will endure temperatures in excess of 350 *C and gather data during a one-year nominal mission, with a possible one-year extension. The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). During the journey to Mercury, the MMO will be shielded from the Sun by the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), which also provides the interface between the MMO and the MPO. The fourth component of the composite spacecraft stack is the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), whose primary task is to provide solar-electric propulsion for the journey to Mercury.

BepiColombo is a joint mission by ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), executed under ESA leadership. The Prime Contractor for BepiColombo is Astrium GmbH.

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