BepiColombo spacecraft orbits of Mercury, illustration

BepiColombo spacecraft orbits of Mercury, illustration

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Credit: EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY/ATG medialab/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: BepiColombo spacecraft orbits of Mercury, illustration. BepiColombo is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to explore Mercury. Scheduled for launch in 2018, it will arrive at Mercury in 2025. it has three components: ESA's Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (inner orbit) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (outer orbit), in their elliptical polar orbits around Mercury. The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (inner orbit) take 2.3 hours to trace an orbit ranging from 480 to 1500 kilometres altitude. The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (outer orbit) will take 9.3 hours to orbit the planet in its 590-by-11,640 kilometre orbit.

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