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Irish company involved in BepiColumbo Mission to Mercury, launching tonight.

Posted on October 19, 2018 by Jon Kennedy M.D.

BepiColombo is one of the European Space Agency's cornerstone scientific missions. It will study the composition, geophysics, atmosphere, magnetosphere and history of Mercury, the least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint project with the Japanese Space Agency. BepiColombo’s mission is especially challenging because Mercury's orbit is so close to the Sun. It is difficult to reach because a spacecraft must lose a lot of energy to ‘fall’ towards the Sun from the Earth. The Sun’s enormous gravity presents a challenge in placing a spacecraft into a stable orbit around Mercury.

CAPTEC, an Irish software company based in Malahide, Co. Dublin is proud to have been involved in the project since 2010, working on the central database. This integrates the data used by all the software components of the spacecraft. CAPTEC has also participated in developing the software for the novel Electrical Propulsion System. Once it leaves Earth's orbit, this ion drive uses electrical propulsion to travel between planets, rather a chemical rocket. BepiColombo will be the first time such a drive has been used for an interplanetary mission.

The launch is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 2:45am GMT from ESA's launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission will finally reach Mercury in 2025, following a complex series of flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. CAPTEC engineers will travel to the European Space Agency's control centre at Darmstadt, Germany to attend the launch.

Watch live : here