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 is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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