Mercury Spacecraft Moves To Testing Ahead Of 2016 Launch To Sun’s Closest Planet

Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's BepiColombo mission in operation around Mercury. Credit: Astrium

Artist’s impression of the European Space Agency’s BepiColombo mission in operation around Mercury. Credit: Astrium

After facing down a couple of delays due to technical difficulties, Europe’s and Japan’s first Mercury orbiter is entering some of the final stages ahead of its 2016 launch. Part of the BepiColombo orbiter moved into a European testing facility this past week that will shake, bake and otherwise test the hardware to make sure it’s ready for its extreme mission.

Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, BepiColombo is going to have a particularly harsh operating environment. Temperatures there will soar as high as 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit), requiring officials to change the chamber to simulate these higher temperatures. Time will tell if the spacecraft is ready for the test.

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© Elizabeth Howell for Universe Today, 2014. |
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