2008-01-20 - BepiColombe contract signedBepiColombo industrial contract signed

Merkur-Sonde der ESA wird von Astrium gebaut<br /> The industrial development of BepiColombo, Europe's first mission to Mercury, has been officially kicked off.

The prime contract, awarded by ESA to Astrium, was signed today during a ceremony that took place in Friedrichshafen, Germany. BepiColombo, a mission to make the most comprehensive study of Mercury ever, was selected by ESA as one of its cornerstone missions in October 2000. Since then, several industrial studies have been performed and their assessment led to the selection of Astrium as prime contractor in 2006.
BepiColombo is due for launch in August 2013, and will reach Mercury in 2019 after a six-year journey towards the inner Solar System. It is the first dual mission to Mercury, with one European spacecraft and one provided from Japan. The programme is carried out as a joint mission under ESA leadership with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). "The two spacecraft will address scientific questions such as the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star, the status of the planet's interior and of its magnetic field, as well as a test of Einstein's theory of General Relativity," said Johannes Benkhoff, ESA Project Scientist for BepiColombo. One spacecraft, ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), will carry 11 instruments to study the surface and internal composition of the planet with unprecedented accuracy, using different wavelengths and investigation techniques.

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