RUAG Space supplies pointing system for BepiColombo

ESA's BepiColombo mission will be steered by a System comprising four high-precision adjustable thruster pointing mechanisms for the electric propulsion satellite thrusters together with a control electronics unit.

This pointing system was developed, built and thoroughly tested in just under five years by RUAG Space in Vienna. After successfully completing the overall system tests at RUAG Space, the four systems were delivered to Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) for pre-integration on the thruster platform.

This platform will then be fitted to the satellite by ADS and fitted with electric propulsion thrusters. The launch of the BepiColombo mission to the planet Mercury is scheduled for July 2016.

RUAG Space in Vienna is supplying control electronics, pointing mechanisms, thermal insulation and test equipment for the BepiColombo mission at a total contract value of around 30 million euros.

For its long journey to the planet Mercury, BepiColombo will use four electric propulsion thrusters powered by solar energy. In order for these thrusters to operate efficiently, the thrust direction has to be very accurately controlled with the help of high-precision thruster pointing mechanisms. In 2009, the mission's industrial prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space appointed RUAG Space to develop pointing mechanisms and associated control electronics. With a total value of over 12 million euros, the contract represents the largest single order for an ESA program ever awarded to an Austrian company.

Besides the pointing system, RUAG Space is also supplying the BepiColombo mission's complete thermal insulation, for which the high temperatures that the mission will be subjected to as it draws close to Mercury pose a real challenge. It was only by turning to special materials that RUAG Space experts were able to develop and produce an effective, durable protective casing for the mission.

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