The satellite mission BepiColombo to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, is new and special in several ways. Not only is it the first joint European-Japanese satellite project, in which both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are participating, it is also the first time that two spacecraft - Magnetospheric (MMO) and Planetary Orbiter (MPO) - are simultaneously flying to this innermost planet. BepiColombo will be launched in 2015.
The European MPO will study the surface, exosphere, and internal composition of the planet, and the Japanese MMO will study Mercury's magnetosphere. Mercury's closeness to the Sun and the resulting high temperatures present a particular challenge.
Within the scope of the European-Japanese MERMAG Consortium, the Space Research Institute (IWF) participates in the magnetometer teams on both spacecraft. It is in charge of the MMO magnetometer (MERMAG-M) and responsible for the overall technical management of the MPO magnetometer (MERMAG-P). The studies will focus on the planetary magnetic field discovered by NASA's Mariner spacecraft as well as its dynamic interaction with the young and strong solar wind in this region.
IWF will participate in the PICAM and STROFIO sensors of the NPA-IS/SERENA instrument package (Neutral Particle Analyzer - Ion Sensor / Search for Exosphere Refilling and Emitted Neutral Abundances) on board of ESA's MPO.
Further information on BepiColombo is found at ESA and JAXA.