Before the end of the year an Ariane 5 from Kourou will launch a mission to Mercury: BepiColombo.
BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System.
It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).
The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.
The data will enable scientists to understand more about the origin and evolution of a planet located close to its parent star, and a better understanding of the overall evolution of our Solar System.
Preparation is well under way for BepiColombo. Recently the long flight to Mercury was simulated at ESOC, ESA's Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, where it will be controlled during its journey after its launch from Kourou.