back to article It's Two Spacecraft, One Mission as BepiColombo gets ready to launch

BepiColombo, the first mission to Mercury for the European Space Agency (ESA), is due to lift off tomorrow morning at 0145 UTC on an Ariane 5 rocket. The spacecraft is named after Professor Guiseppe (Bepi) Colombo, who suggested to NASA that it might swing its Mariner 10 probe by Venus in order to visit Mercury in 1974 and …

  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Happy

    Nice of ESA/JAXA

    To give all space enthusiasts in the Netherlands a Sinterklaas present in 2025. Looking forward to it. Fingers crossed for a successful launch and journey

  2. defiler Silver badge

    Remember the mystery goo container

    And either a second one, opposed, for balance, or an RCS port and a Reverse Gravioli Detector.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Remember the mystery goo container

      Stories like this always make me want to fire up my copy of KSP.

      There's nothing worse than making it all the way to a hard to reach planet and then realising you forgot to add landing gear.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Remember the mystery goo container

        Stories like this always make me want to fire up my copy of KSP.

        I've caught the bug again. Been deploying a fleet of landers to tackle Jool's moons. Got to design my recovery craft and then wait for my launch window.

        Also recovering a stranded Kerbal from the Mun for my son...

        Go, Jeb! Go!

        1. MonkeyBob

          Re: Remember the mystery goo container

          I've been trying to do docking in orbit, and damn that is hard. So many spacecraft fragments floating around :-(

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: Remember the mystery goo container

            I've been trying to do docking in orbit, and damn that is hard.

            Eventually it's worth just installing MechJeb.

  3. MJB7 Bronze badge
    FAIL

    JWST?

    2021 for James Webb? Your'e having a laaf. That's about as likely as Berlin Brandenburg being open by then.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's going to be a nervous November....

    Once we've got over the one in twenty probability of failure during launch and boost, it ain't over.

    The thrusters on the MTM aren't due to be switched on until a month after launch, so there's going to be a very large bunch of people turning very blue holding their breath over the next few weeks.

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Not only Venus flyby - but passing near Mercury three times.

    What Colombo proposed and NASA quickly adopted and achieved was to use a trajectory that would have allowed three fly-by instead of the planned single one - taking advantage of Mercury orbit resonance.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > ESA’s hefty MPO, weighing in at 1,150kg upon arrival at Mercury

    Do you mean that it's a mass of 1150kg which weights 11270N on Earth but will weigh 4255N on Mercury?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      No, I assume they mean that the spacecraft will be down to 1.15kg by the time it reaches Mercury from all the bits it keeps dropping off and the fuel it's burned in order to get there.

      So the 1st stage weighs something like 190 tonnes + 2 x 277 tonne solid rocket boosters + an upper stage, normally used to get to geostationery transfer orbit with 10 tonnes of propellant. All to get about a 10 tonne payload to GTO. But I assume it'll be different on this mission, using most of the payload weight as fuel in order to get to Mercury. We're talking nearly 700 tonnes of stuff, to get just over 1 tonne to orbit Mercury.

      1. MonkeyBob

        I think the point he was making is that weight depends on gravity which varies with the size of the planet you are on, or is zero in space. Mass is however constant wherever you happen to be.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Gravity is never zero. It can be minuscule, but never zero.

          But the point remains that mass and weight are not universally proportional.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Gravity is never zero. It can be minuscule, but never zero."

            If the universe is expanding, that implies an edge which implies a centre of mass. I wonder what the effect of gravity is at the zero point?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > "If the universe is expanding, that implies an edge which implies a centre of mass."

              Current theory says that it's space itself that is expanding, and there is no "outside" for it to expand into. I gather that if you could travel long enough in a "straight" line you'd find yourself back where you started, but even that is impossible because space is expanding faster than light speed. In fact we can only ever observe a small portion of the whole thing.

              Basically the universe is very weird, but we knew that.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Basically the universe is very weird, but we knew that.

                Then it should damn well stop being weird and behave normally! And it should get a bloody good haircut and stop listening to that awful music. You can't hear the words, and you don't know if the singer is Martha or Arther.

                In my day universes had to make their own entertainment...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > "We're talking nearly 700 tonnes of stuff, to get just over 1 tonne to orbit Mercury."

        And that's AFTER including all the gravity assists as well. For a nearby planet, Mercury sure is hard to reach! It would be easy if the Sun wasn't bending space so much.

  7. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Don't forget your sunscreen

    Always good advice at least when heading for Mercury.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Don't forget your sunscreen

      How much is a bottle of factor 3,000,000 again? And how often do you have to re-apply it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget your sunscreen

      We don't need as we will just go at night!

  8. Keith Oborn

    Ariane 6 --

    Wow: the web page for the Ariane 6 includes a 14Mb PDF user manual.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Ariane 6 --

      Fabulous:-

      "2.4.5. Earth escape missions "

      "To be provided later"

      1. LDS Silver badge

        ""To be provided later"

        "We're booked already to escape first - maybe we'll give instruction to you later..."

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