European Space Agency tests antenna for Mercury mission

The antenna that will connect Europe’s BepiColombo with Earth is being tested for the extreme conditions it must endure orbiting Mercury. The trial is taking place over 10 days inside ESA’s Large Space Simulator.

The 1.5 metre-diameter high-gain antenna, plus its boom and support structure, are being subjected to a shaft of intense sunlight in vacuum conditions, while gradually rotated through 90º.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury. It will set off in 2017 and arrive at Mercury in January 2024.

The spacecraft will have to endure temperatures in excess of 350 °C and gather data during its one-year mission, with a possible 1-year extension.

The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). BepiColombo is a joint mission between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


The antenna being tested will be fitted to ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

Read science facts, not fiction...

There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.