10/14/2019 / News

Side glances: On the way to Mercury

For just under a year now, “BepiColombo” has been on its way to Mercury. The space probe is transporting two satellites designed to investigate the magnetic field and the surface of the smallest planet which is also the closest to the sun. The mission, named after the Italian mathematician and engineer Guiseppe “Bepi” Colombo, is a joint project of the European Space Agency ESA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA.

Minus 270 °C on the side of Mercury facing away from the sun, and as much as 400 °C on the sunny side – this temperature range creates huge challenges for the material. So that the space probe can withstand severe stresses, it was necessary to develop a thermal control system. It is designed so that the maximum temperatures that the sensors and other sensitive components are exposed to do not exceed 250 °C in any phase of the mission.

Space probe on the way to MercuryA special plastic from Ensinger is enabling thermal decoupling in the space probe “BepiColombo” and ensuring the sensors and other sensitive components are protected from temperatures of up to 400 °C. Picture: ESA

The thermal decoupling is provided by ring-shaped discs made from TECASINT 1011. The polyimide material made by Ensinger stands out for extremely high long-term thermal stability and low outgassing. Even if briefly heated to 350 °C, this plastic does not soften. This characteristic is required to ensure that the attraction force of the screws is maintained over the entire flight time of BepiColombo.

The Mercury orbit insertion is planned for December 2025. By this point in time the space probe will have covered a distance of 9 billion kilometres.

Bon voyage BepiColombo!