BepiColombo must withstand temperatures of 450°C as it surveys the Solar System’s innermost planet, so long ground tests were essential.
This is the ‘engineering model’ of the spacecraft, basically identical to the flight model but built specifically for testing.
The Mercury Transfer Module, bottom, will transport the mission to Mercury using chemical and electric thrusters. The Mercury Planetary Orbiter, above it, will study the planet with a variety of cameras and other sensors.
An additional module, Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, not seen here, will study Mercury’s mysteriously strong magnetic field.
BepiColombo is on display as part of the ESTEC Open Day this Sunday, when ESA’s technical heart opens its doors to the public. Visitors will have a chance to meet astronauts, talk to the scientists and engineers designing and running ESA missions, and handle retrieved hardware that has flown in space.
Visitors have to register through this link: http://www.esa.int/estecopenday2013. As the total number of visitors must be limited, to ensure a great experience for all who do attend, book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.