In addition to testing scientific equipment, which was reported yesterday, one of the devices BepiColombo — a joint mission of the European space Agency (EKA) and the Japanese aerospace exploration Agency (JAXA) for the study of mercury — has successfully tested its ion engines, making them the first corrective maneuver, according to the official website of ESA.
During the BepiColombo mission to mercury, which started on October 20, the MTM (Mercury Transfer Module) flight module with four ion engines and two orbiters — planetary and magnetospheric-were sent. The flight module will deliver the spacecraft to mercury, and the orbiters will study the surface of the celestial body and its magnetosphere.
Over the next seven years, the devices will have to overcome 9 billion kilometers, although the distance from Earth to mercury is a maximum of 271 million kilometers. This is explained by the fact that during the flight, the BepiColombo devices will perform a total of 9 gravitational maneuvers around the Earth, Venus and mercury, until they eventually reach the desired orbit of the smallest planet of the Solar system.
On 20 November, the mission management team launched one of the ion engines of the transport module. Satisfied with the results, after three hours, the flight control Center first launched two ion engines of the flight unit, and then all four. Within five hours they worked at full capacity-125 mn.
Each ion engine of the device with a diameter of 22 cm uses an electric charge received from solar panels to ionize xenon gas atoms. 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 will allow the ship to develop great speed.
Engineers suggest that heavy-duty ion engines T6, manufactured by the British company QinetiQ, will give the flight module additional thrust. It is planned that during the flight of the vehicles the engines will work for a week with an eight-hour break.
If all goes according to plan, BepiColombo will arrive on orbit mercury 5 December 2025 year and will address studying the the surface planet and its chemical the composition.