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ESA's BepiColombo Mission

General Overview with a Special Focus on ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter

On Things to Come Webinars

Dr Johannes Benkhoff
European Space Agency, ESA

24 February 2021
9 am CET -- 4 pm GMT+8

BepiColombo was launched on 20 October 2018 the BepiColombo from the European spaceport in French Guyana and is now on route to Mercury to unveil Mercurys secrets. BepiColombo with its state of the art and very comprehensive payload will perform measurements to increase our knowledge on the fundamental questions about Mercurys evolution, composition, interior, magnetosphere, and exosphere. BepiColombo is a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and consists of two orbiters, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mio).  

The BepiColombo will perform nine planetary flybys during its 7-year long journey to the innermost terrestrial planet. During this cruise phase BepiColombo is in a so called stacked configuration where the two spacecraft are sitting on top of a transfer spacecraft. Only in late 2025, this configuration is abandoned and the individual elements spacecraft are brought in to their final Mercury orbit: 480x1500km for MPO, and 590x11640km for Mio. The mission has been named in honor of Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (19201984), who was a brilliant Italian mathematician, who made many significant contributions to planetary research and celestial mechanics.

On its way BepiColombo has several opportunities for scientific observations - during the cruise into the inner solar system and during nine flybys (one at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury). However, since the spacecraft is in a stacked configuration during the flybys only some of the   instruments on both spacecraft will perform scientific observations.  

A status of the mission and its instruments with special emphasis on the MPO (since further talks on Mio and dedicated instruments will follow in the weeks after) will be given.

About Johannes Benkhoff

Johannes Benkhoff is planetary physicist working in the field of computational modeling of surface - interior interactions of small bodies in the Solar System for more than 30 years. He got his PhD in 1992 at University of Münster and obtained a scholarship from the German Science Foundation (DFG) to work as a post-doc for three years at the SwRI institute in Texas, USA. After that he became a research scientist at the German Aerospace Centre, DLR, before he moved to ESA in 2004. Since 2006 he is the project scientist of the joint ESA - JAXA BepiColombo mission. 

Research Areas:
· Stability of convection in the Earth mantle
· computational modeling of the physics and chemistry of sublimation processes of porous, dusty, multi-component ices in the Solar System
· Comet nucleus modeling, Spectroscopy
· Stability of ice investigations in polar craters on Mercury and in near surface layers of Mars
· Planet Mercury in general

VIRTIS (Rosetta Orbiter Instrument), MUPUS (Rosetta Lander Instrument), CONTOUR (NASA Discovery mission to study the variety of comets), VIRTIS (Venus Express), and MERTIS and SIMBIO-SYS (both BepiColombo) and Project Scientist of BepiColombo

Postdoc scholarship from the German science foundation for two years of studies at the SwRI in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Asteroid, 1998 SM58, was named “13332 Benkhoff” 

On Things to Come Webinars


23 September 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Geraint Jones – ESA Comet Interceptor Mission [YouTube/Youku]
21 October 2020 
8 pm (GMT+8)
Ralph Lorenz – NASA Dragonfly Mission [YouTube/Youku]
4 November 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Wang Chi – ESA SMILE Mission [YouTube/Youku]
25 November 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Heike Rauer – ESA PLATO Mission [YouTube/Youku]
9 December 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Takehiko Satoh – JAXA Akatsuki Mission [YouTube/Bilibili]
18 December 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Olivier Witasse – ESA JUICE Mission [YouTube/Bilibili]
21 December 2020
4 pm (GMT+8)
Tomohiro Usui – JAXA MMX Mission [YouTube/Bilibili]
13 January 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Weiqun Gan – CAS ASO-S Mission [YouTube/Bilibili] 
27 January 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Giovanna Tinetti – ESA Ariel Mission [YouTube/Bilibili] 
24 February 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Johannes Benkhoff – ESA BepiColombo Mission I Register
10 March 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Gabriele Cremonese – ESA BepiColombo Mission II Register
24 March 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Go Murakami – ESA BepiColombo Mission III
7 April 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Yoshifumi Saito – ESA BepiColombo Mission IV
14 April 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Daniel Mueller – ESA Solar Orbiter Mission I
21 April 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Stefano Vitale – ESA LISA Mission
6 May 2021
10 am (GMT+8)
Andy Cheng – The DART Mission
19 May 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Saem Krucker – ESA Solar Orbiter Mission II
25 May 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Sami Solanki – ESA Solar Orbiter Mission III
2 June 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Athena Coustenis – ESA HRE Program
9 June 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Yuan Weimin – CAS Einstein Probe Mission
16 June 2021
10 am (GMT+8)
Evgenya Shkolnik – NASA SPARCS Mission
30 June 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
René Laurelijs – ESA EUCLID Mission
1 July 2021
10 am (GMT+8)
Lindy Elkins-Tanton – NASA Psyche Mission
14 July 2021
4 pm (GMT+8)
Tomoko Arai – JAXA DESTINY Mission


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