The Most Powerful Ion Drive in Space Is Ready for Its to Visit Mercury

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury that left Earth on Oct. 19 has an extended, seven-year journey forward of it, however the spacecraft simply ticked off an necessary milestone.

On Dec. 2, the spacecraft used two of its ion thrusters to make its first maneuver — a process that got here after weeks of cautious testing. The success signifies that probably the most highly effective electric-propulsion engine system ever to discover house is now up and working.

Electrical propulsion know-how may be very novel and intensely delicate,” Elsa Montagnon, Spacecraft Operations Supervisor for BepiColombo, mentioned in a press release launched by ESA. “This implies BepiColombo’s 4 thrusters needed to be totally checked following the launch, by slowly turning every on, one after the other, and intently monitoring their functioning and impact on the spacecraft.”

The group additionally wanted to slot in that testing in the course of the time when the spacecraft would all the time be seen from and level its antennae towards Earth in order that they may correctly monitor the checks. In mid-December, the thrusters will start the collection of 22 lengthy burns that can be crucial for it to achieve Mercury. Your entire journey will cowl 5.6 billion miles (9 billion kilometers).

BepiColombo’s highly effective ion thrusters are positioned on the Mercury Switch Module, which is ferrying the mission’s two science orbiters to Mercury. As soon as the meeting arrives in 2025, the three spacecraft will separate and the orbiters will bid farewell to the electrical engines and their eerie blue glow.

Electronic mail Meghan Bartels at or comply with her @meghanbartels. Observe us @Spacedotcom and Fb. Authentic article on

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