The BepiColombo antenna turns to Earth for the first firing
On December 17th, the BepiColombo probe began the first maneuver. After rigorous testing of four high-tech ionic engines of the spacecraft, the mission team launched roasting for the first arc. In total, the ship must overcome 9 billion km, completing 9 flights of the Earth, Venus and Mercury and beating the Sun 18 times.
To accomplish this, you will need 22 arcs with thruster, each of which will provide the same acceleration with less fuel consumption compared to traditional high-energy chemical firing, which takes minutes or hours.
The first arc will last 2 months, during which BepiColombo electric blue “jets” will direct it to the interplanetary trajectory and optimize its orbit, moving to the Earth’s span in April 2020.
Until the moment of roasting, BepiColombo was turned to the correct position. As the orientation of the high-gain spacecraft was measured, it was rotated to maintain communication with ground stations on Earth. Then the solar panels are tilted so that they are fully turned towards the Sun, because ionic engines need full power.
Two ion engines pass through joint test firing in a QinetiQ vacuum chamber in the UK. Solar electric power plant has 4 T6 engines, where 1-2 work constantly, and the rest - spare. Two engines are tested to ensure that they can operate simultaneously in close proximity for long periods.
The ship crew was relieved to observe successful roasting and how BepiColombo is gaining momentum from an initial thrust level of 75 mN to 108 mN each. The maximum planned figure for the entire trip is 250 mN, where each of the two engines accounts for 125 mN.
On December 17, 2018, the BepiColombo spacecraft team launched its ion engines. This is the first of 22 planned firing to reach the desired path. Mission BepiColombo moves to explore Mercury